Funeral Industry News

Funeral Director Involved in Body Parts Ring, Denied Parole

June 30, 2010

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Funeral Director Involved in Body Parts Ring, Denied Parole

imageFormer Newark mortician Stephen K. Finley, one of several New Jersey funeral directors implicated in a multi-state ring that trafficked in stolen body parts for medical transplant, has lost his first attempt at parole.

Finley, who has served just over a year of his five-year prison term, will be eligible for parole again in 17 months.

The State Parole Board found that Finley, 47, continues to deny responsibility for his role in the sick scheme where he allowed teams of “cutters” to secretly harvest bones, organs, skin, tendons and other body parts for sale on the transplant market.

Prosecutors say Finley was paid $1,000 per corpse and that none of the harvested tissue was screened for disease. As a result, transplant recipients nationwide may have received tissue infected with cancer, HIV or other diseases. The scheme, which operated in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, was discovered by the Brooklyn D.A.’s office.

Finley, of Murray Hill, pleaded guilty to a single count of desecrating human remains and was sentenced to up to five years in prison in March 2009.

The board made their decision after meeting with Finely Friday. Their explanation of their denial read that Finley needed to “gain greater insight into his behavior. He makes excuses for his behavior and blames his father’s alcoholism.” In the weeks leading up to the hearing, board members also met with family members of several victims.

The Star-Ledger reported that one of the people who testified before the panel called the board’s decision a “step in the right direction.” Robin Samoilow, who knew Finley through her church, hired him to handle the cremation of her father, Albert Teufel, in 2005. Just four months ago, Samoilow learned her father was among Finley’s victims.

“The images that are now in my head will probably never leave. Mr. Finley started this domino effect. It was a conscious decision on his part,” Samoilow said.

After Finely’s license was revoked, investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office learned he continued to make funeral arrangements for clients at Berardinelli Forest Hill Memorial Home (Funeraria Santa Cruz) where he offered clients cremation service known as Cremation at a Low Cost. He is set to stand trial in September for that charge. If convicted, Finley faces an additional 18 months in prison.

The parole board’s decision Friday came two days after acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino met with family members of nearly two dozen victims to apologize for his office’s handling of the Finley and Robert Maitner cases.

Maitner, who owned Kiernan Funeral Home in Belleville, was also convicted in the scheme. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to at tempted enterprise corruption in New York and served six months in Rikers Island. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office negotiated a plea deal with Maitner, much to the dismay of family members, and as a condition of his guilty plea in New York, he was permanently barred from the funeral industry.

Dozens of New Jersey residents didn’t learn the fate of loved ones whose remains were handled by Finley and Maitner until prosecutors in Brooklyn informed them this year.