Local News

Ex-body parts supplier sent to prison for scam

Posted October 5, 2009 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2009 2:13 p.m. EDT

— A former Raleigh resident who falsified the medical histories of cadavers so he could sell their tissue for transplants was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison.

Philip Joe Guyett Jr., 42, who also was ordered to pay a $103,000 fine, was immediately taken into custody. He pleaded guilty in March to three counts of mail fraud.

"I should have never gotten into the field," Guyett said before sentencing. "I was in debt. I thought I knew the right thing to do. I made very bad decisions in the end. I don't want to hurt anybody. No one wants that."

Prosecutors asked for a seven-year prison term, but U.S. District Judge Earl Britt handed down the longer sentence to deter others from similar scams.

Federal investigators said Guyett received $3,000 to $7,000 for each body he harvested. They argued that he changed the medical histories of cadavers and falsified blood samples to hide evidence of disease or drug use, trying to ensure the risky tissue wouldn't be rejected.

Jennifer Steinbeck said that, after her father died of cancer, Guyett promised her the body would be used for cancer research. Instead, she said, tissues from her father's body were sent to patients.

"He took my father's body, chopped it up and distributed his body parts," a tearful Steinbeck said in court. "Please put him away. That's a monster. That's not human."

Prosecutors say that Guyett's tissue operation, Donor Referral Services Inc., produced 2,600 human tissue products, with 785 of those implanted into humans. They argue that 127 patients received tissue from donors with questionable medical histories and at least one victim contracted a staph infection that his doctor believes was linked to Guyett's unsanitary procurement of tissue.

More than a dozen people who either received suspect tissue or were related to patients who received tissue attended the sentencing hearing in Raleigh federal court. One woman twice shouted "Butcher!" at Guyett.

Betty Overtree, of Fort Battle, Ga., who received some tissue during a 2004 operation, said she was rushed back to the hospital five days later because of an infection. She spoke to Britt from wheelchair during the sentencing hearing.

"What devastates me is I can't do what I used to," Overtree said. "If it was a natural process, that's one thing, but ... it's just ruined my life."

Federal regulators shut down Donor Referral Services in 2006, citing inaccurate paperwork and poor record-keeping.

Guyett said after pleading guilty that he took short cuts to get rid of the tissue assuming that checks and balances in the processing of the body parts would catch any problems. He said he's offering to help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strengthen oversight of the vocation he called "vitally important to the medical industry in our country."

Guyett, who now lives in Simi Valley, Calif., has said he is working in metal recycling.