updated 5/17/2007 5:26:42 PM ET 2007-05-17T21:26:42

Three funeral home directors and four former employees of a biomedical supply company secretly removed skin, bone and other body parts from dozens of corpses awaiting cremation at Rochester funeral homes, prosecutors said Thursday.

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An indictment unsealed Thursday charges the seven with body stealing, unlawful dissection and other counts. The most serious charges carry maximum 20-year prison sentences.

“Put yourself in the position of one of the family members,” said Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green. “What we’ve heard from them is that this is just absolutely devastating.”

Four of those charged worked at a suburban Rochester branch of now-defunct Biomedical Tissue Services of Fort Lee, N.J.

Four other men, including the company’s owner, former dentist Michael Mastromarino, were charged last year with removing bone and tissue from 1,077 bodies at funeral homes without the permission of families. All have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said Mastromarino made millions of dollars by selling body parts to biomedical companies that supply material for common procedures, including dental implants and hip replacements.

In October, seven funeral home directors linked to the scheme pleaded guilty in New York City to undisclosed charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators. They included the director of a funeral home that took parts from the body of “Masterpiece Theatre” host Alistair Cooke, who died in 2004, defense attorneys say.

Biomedical Tissue Services operated its only satellite office in the Rochester suburb of Brighton and paid funeral homes a standard fee of around $1,000 to lawfully harvest body parts.

The indictment alleges that employees Darlene Deats, 46; Kevin Vickers, 53; Nicholas Sloyer, 34; and Kirssy Knapp, 29, removed bone and tissue from 36 corpses in 2005 without getting the proper consent.

Also charged were Jason Gano, 31, former funeral director of Thomas E. Burger Funeral Home in Hilton, Scott Batjer, 37, director of Profetta Funeral Chapel in Webster, and Serrell Gayton, 59, director of Serenity Hills Funeral Chapel in Rochester.

Five of the defendants pleaded not guilty Thursday and were released. Vickers, in England attending his brother’s wedding, was ordered to appear next week, and an arrest warrant was issued for Knapp, who failed to show up in court.

Sloyer’s attorney, Paul MacAulay, said he did not knowingly commit a crime.

“He had no reason to doubt that any of the bodies that they were involved in were being processed without a valid consent,” MacAulay said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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