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Michigan Woman Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud in Distribution of Infectious Human Remains Fraud Scheme

On March 21, 2016, Elizabeth Rathburn pleaded guilty to wire fraud in U.S. District Court, Detroit, MI. Rathburn was the former manager of International Biological, Inc. (IBI). She was indicted in January 2016 for her involvement in a fraud scheme involving the distribution of infectious human remains. 

Rathburn admitted that in October 2012, she was responsible for providing an IBI customer with human remains she misrepresented as being free of certain infectious diseases. The remains were not only known by Rathburn to have tested positive for HIV and hepatitis B, but she also knew that the customer would not have otherwise accepted the remains for medical research and training.     

The indictment alleged that between January 2007 and December 2013, Arthur Rathburn and his wife Elizabeth Rathburn participated in a scheme to defraud buyers of “willed-to-science” donor cadaver parts. The Rathburns obtained bodies and body parts from suppliers, which IBI would then typically dismember, before renting out to customers for medical or dental training. On more than one occasion, the Rathburns withheld medical facts surrounding the death of certain donors, failed to inform customers that some cadaver body parts were considered infectious and falsely represented the body parts were free of diseases. In addition, Arthur Rathburn willfully caused regulated hazardous materials to be delivered in violation of Federal transportation regulations.

DOT-OIG is conducting this investigation with the FBI with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.