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Division of Consumer Affairs
Press Release

Attorney General
Anne Milgram
Division of Consumer Affairs, Director
David Szuchman
   
For Immediate Release:
March 3, 2009 
For Further Information Contact:
Jeff Lamm, 973-504-6327
 

Funeral Homes Where Illegal Body Parts Harvesting Occurred To be Temporarily Shut

NEWARK - Two funeral homes and a cremation service in Newark connected to an illegal body parts harvesting operation will be temporarily shut down at the close of business on March 5, under terms of an interim consent order reached today between the state Board of Mortuary Science and the owners of the facilities.

Stephen K. Finley, who with his wife owns the Berardinelli Forest Hill Memorial Home, Funeraria Santa Cruz and Cremation at a Low Cost, also is barred from entering these businesses while the interim order is in effect.

The interim order issued today came after undercover investigators from Consumer Affairs' Enforcement Bureau found that Finley was acting as a funeral director despite having his license revoked by the Board in January. Finley was allowed to retain ownership of the funeral homes and cremation service but had to employ licensed funeral directors to arrange for and preside over funerals.

“This interim action protects the public, which is our primary focus,” Attorney General Anne Milgram said. “The Board was prepared to hold a formal hearing today and take action if this consent order was not reached.”

The registrations of the three businesses will be temporarily suspended and all signage at the businesses must be covered, under terms of the consent order. Telephone messages telling callers that the businesses are closed also must be activated.

Any pre-arranged funerals will be handled by other funeral homes while the interim consent order is in effect.

The Board of Mortuary Science will hold a plenary hearing to consider final action against Finley and his businesses no later than April 7.

“The alleged violation of an order issued by a licensing board shows a wanton disregard for the law,” said David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director. “Our boards are disciplinary bodies that hold licensees accountable for their behavior and conduct.”

The Board in January ordered the revocation of Finley's funeral director's license after an investigation by the Division of Consumer Affairs' Enforcement Bureau, with the assistance of the Kings County District Attorney's Office and the Food and Drug Administration, uncovered that Finley was involved in a scheme to harvest tissue from the dead without obtaining the proper consent. This tissue was then allegedly sold and used in surgical procedures.

The leader of the scheme, Michael Mastromarino, pleaded guilty in New York to enterprise corruption, body stealing, and reckless endangerment.

Deputy Attorney General Doreen A. Hafner is representing the state in this matter.

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