Man accused of selling body parts gets trial date

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A trial date has been set for a Grosse Pointe Park man who is accused of running a business that sold infected body parts on the black market.

Arthur Rathburn appeared in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Friday for a status conference on his case. He was given a Feb. 21 trial date.

Arthur Rathburn, 62, is accused of renting human remains, including heads and torsos, with infectious diseases to unsuspecting customers who used the human body parts for medical or dental training, according to court records.

The day before, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman refused to throw out evidence against Rathburn who challenged searches of his warehouse at 8640 Grinnell in Detroit.

Rathburn is charged with nine counts of wire fraud, three charges of making false statements, and one charge of transporting hazardous material. The indictment says he falsely claimed eight human heads shipped in 2012 had been embalmed, yet human blood was found in the coolers.

Rathburn operated International Biological Inc., which rented out body parts for medical or dental training.

Federal agents say they searched the Grinnell warehouse Dec. 6, 2013, as part of a nationwide multiyear investigation into certain so-called “Body Brokers,” which allegedly buy and sell human cadavers, body parts and tissue.

His wife, Elizabeth Rathburn, has pleaded to one count of wire fraud in March. She will pay more than $55,000 in restitution and could serve four to 10 months in prison. Her sentencing is Nov. 15 before Borman.

Rathburn faces 20 years in prison on each count. He is in federal detention in Milan.

In September, The News reported Rathburn’s efforts to fight the case.

Prosecutors have offered Rathburn a plea deal. Defense attorney Byron Pitts said Rathburn maintains his innocence and is in plea negotiations.

“We’ll try to come to fair resolution in the case. If we cannot, we’ll go to trial,” Pitts said.

JChambers@detroitnews.com