Image: Michael Mendez
Haywood County Sheriff's Office  /  AP
Michael Mendez, shown in an undated photo provided by the Haywood County Sheriff's Office, along with two other men have been charged with performing illegal castrations.
updated 3/31/2006 9:10:44 PM ET 2006-04-01T02:10:44

Three men accused of running a sadomasochistic "dungeon" in rural Haywood County were in custody Friday, charged with performing illegal castrations.

Investigators from the office of Sheriff Tom Alexander said the men admitted performing at least eight surgeries on six consenting clients over the past year, including castrations and testicle replacements.

None of the men — identified as Richard Sciara, 61, Danny Reeves, 49, and Michael Mendez, 60 — is licensed to practice medicine, officials said.

"It's extremely bizarre," District Attorney Michael Bonfoey said in a telephone interview Friday. "It's incredible the amount of ways that people can find to run afoul of the law, that's for sure."

The men were each being held on $150,000 bond at the Haywood County Jail in Waynesville, Bonfoey said. If they remain in jail over the weekend, he said, they will make a first court appearance Monday.

According to Alexander's office, detectives who searched the home Wednesday found medical supplies that included scalpels, sutures, bandages, local anesthetic and artificial replacement testicles known as "neuticles."

Also seized were videotaping equipment, videotapes, compact discs and DVDs that the sheriff's office said had recordings of the surgeries.

Two plastic containers holding what appeared to be frozen testes were sent to a forensics lab for testing.

The suspects were arrested Thursday without incident. Each man faces 18 charges — five counts of felonious castration without malice, five counts of felonious conspiracy to commit castration without malice and eight counts of misdemeanor performing medical acts without a license.

"This right here beats anything I have ever seen," Alexander told the Asheville Citizen-Times, which reported that victims may have come from as far away as South America.

Photographs and videos made at the "dungeon" south of Hazelwood were apparently featured on a locally produced sadomasochistic Web site, officials said. Alexander's office first investigated the house in 2004, but concluded there was nothing illegal going on because all the participants were over 18 and apparently willing.

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Bonfoey said he urged the sheriff to take another look at the home after a recent conversation with a citizen who made "strange statements" about the place. The renewed scrutiny helped lead to the new charges, Bonfoey said.

Bonfoey said the law distinguishes between malicious and non-malicious castration, but that the consent of the castrated makes no difference.

"Assuming that the victims consented to this — and we don't know that for sure yet — that doesn't make it a defense," he said. "We can't have people who are not medical doctors lopping off limbs and other body parts."

Investigators said other surgeries performed at the home included urethra rerouting and penis removal.

Each of the felony charges carries a maximum sentence of three years, three months, Bonfoey said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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