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Division of Consumer Affairs
Press Release

Attorney General
Anne Milgram
Division of Consumer Affairs, Director
David Szuchman
   
For Immediate Release:
February 19, 2009 
For Further Information Contact:
Jeff Lamm, 973-504-6327
 
State Acts to Shut Funeral Homes After Owner Allegedly Violated Restrictions Imposed After Illegal Body Parts Harvesting

NEWARK - State Attorney General Anne Milgram is requesting that the state licensing board shut down two funeral homes and a cremation service because the owner of the businesses, whose funeral director's license was revoked following his involvement in illegal body parts harvesting, allegedly violated terms of the board order issued in January.

Stephen K. Finley, owner of the Berardinelli Forest Hill Memorial Home, Funeraria Santa Cruz and Cremation at a Low Cost, all located in Newark, allegedly functioned as a funeral director after the Board of Mortuary Science revoked his license. Finley was allowed to retain ownership of the funeral homes and cremation service but had to employ licensed funeral directors to arrange for and preside over funerals.

Undercover investigators from Consumer Affairs' Enforcement Bureau went to one of Finley's funeral homes on two separate visits in January and met with Finley to discuss and arrange funeral services for two fictitious relatives. Such alleged activities by Finley violate the Board's order since his funeral director's license is revoked.

Additionally, Finley allegedly withheld records of both undercover visits when Enforcement Bureau investigators came to his office this month and requested documents related to all funeral arrangements made after the Board's order went into effect.

“Finley knowingly violated the order of the licensing board and by his alleged actions demonstrated that his word has no value," Attorney General Milgram said. “His funeral homes and cremation service must be shut to protect the public.”

At least three consumers allegedly made funeral arrangements with Finley after his funeral director's license was revoked.

Finley was served today with the state's Verified Complaint and ordered to appear before the Board of Mortuary Science.

The Board of Mortuary Science is scheduled to hold a hearing on March 3 to consider temporarily suspending the certificates of registration for Finley's three businesses. Without certificates of registration, the businesses cannot offer funeral services and must be closed. The certificates are held by Finley Funeral Services, LLC, which Finley and his wife own.

“First and foremost, our licensing boards exist to protect the public,” said David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director. “The fact that Finley allegedly withheld records and tried to hide his illegal actions speaks to the risk he continues to pose.”

The Board in January ordered the license revocation after an investigation by the Division of Consumer Affairs' Enforcement Bureau, with the assistance of the Kings County District Attorney's Office and the Food and Drug Administration, uncovered that Finley was involved in a scheme to harvest tissue from the dead without obtaining the proper consent. This tissue was then allegedly sold and used in surgical procedures.

The leader of the scheme, Michael Mastromarino, pleaded guilty in New York to enterprise corruption, body stealing, and reckless endangerment.

Deputy Attorney General Doreen A. Hafner is representing the state in this matter.

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