Henry Reid, the former director of UCLA’s willed body program, pleaded guilty for his role in selling donated body parts to drug companies. The years long investigation into the body-for-parts profit scheme culminated when Reid pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grand theft, said Nancy Greenstein, a university police spokeswoman.
Reid, 58, was hired in May 1997 as the director and from May 1999 to February 2004, he allegedly sold body parts to businessman Ernest Nelson, another defendant in the case, who resold them to “more than 20 private, medical, pharmaceutical and hospital research companies,” in a conspiracy to defraud UCLA of its donor bodies for financial gain in a scheme that netted up to $1 million, prosecutors said.
An Anaheim resident, Reid pleaded guilty in Los Angeles County Superior Court to one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft, a count shared by both individuals. In addition each received one count of grand theft of personal property allegedly worth more than $1 million, according to the statement.
There was a special allegation that he damaged or destroyed more than $1 million worth of school property, referring to the donated bodies.
Reid could be sentenced to four years and four months in a state prison and is to pay a restitution amount between $100,000 and $1 million to UCLA’s willed body program with a judge deciding on the final amount. Reid also agreed to cooperate in Nelson’s case. If he had been convicted at trial he could have faced up to 11 years in prison.
Melvyn Sacks, his attorney said after the hearing, "My client accepted responsibility for the mistake he made concerning his activities as director of the Willed Body Program at UCLA and is extremely remorseful about the situation. He deeply regrets the outcome of his actions."
UCLA police Chief Karl Ross said the investigation involved more than 100 search warrants and took three years in what he called "an extremely complicated case."
Nelson said he believed he was acting under the university’s authorization and he cut the donated torsos and kept the frozen parts in a rented warehouse until they were sold. In 2003 a state health investigator became concerned about a sale and contacted the university which unraveled the scheme.
Reid and Nelson were arrested in 2004 and then released while the investigation concluded. Nelson pleaded not guilty to the charges and no trial date has been set for him. Reid is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 30, 2009.
UCLA suspended its cadaver program in 2004 for a year and has instituted new procedures to prevent future abuses, including new donor forms and security and tracking systems for the bodies.