The manager of a morgue at Harvard Medical School has been charged with selling body parts from donated cadavers and allowing buyers to come to the morgue to choose which parts they wanted, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Prosecutors said that the manager, Cedric Lodge, 55, and his wife, Denise Lodge, 63, both of Goffstown, N.H., and three others had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania on charges of conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods.
A sixth person, Jeremy Pauley, 41, of Bloomsburg, Pa., was charged separately, prosecutors said. A seventh, Candace Chapman Scott, of Little Rock, Ark., was previously indicted in Arkansas, prosecutors said.
The defendants were all part of a nationwide network that bought and sold human remains stolen from Harvard Medical School and a mortuary in Little Rock where Ms. Scott worked, prosecutors said.
In a statement to the Harvard Medical School community on Wednesday, George Q. Daley, dean of the faculty of medicine, and Edward M. Hundert, dean for medical education, called the allegations “an abhorrent betrayal.”
According to federal prosecutors, from 2018 to 2022, Mr. Lodge stole parts from cadavers that had been donated to the medical school and dissected — including heads, brains, skin and bones — before their scheduled cremations.
The Lodges then shipped remains to others, including Katrina Maclean, 44, of Salem, Mass., who owns a store called Kat’s Creepy Creations in Peabody, Mass., and Joshua Taylor, 46, of West Lawn, Pa., prosecutors said.
At times, Mr. Lodge allowed Ms. Maclean, Mr. Taylor and others into the morgue to choose which parts they wanted, prosecutors said. In October 2020, prosecutors said, Ms. Maclean agreed to buy two dissected faces from Mr. Lodge for $600.
Prosecutors said that Ms. Maclean stored and sold remains at Kat’s Creepy Creations, which advertises “creepy dolls, oddities” and “bone art” on Instagram.
In June or July of 2021, she shipped human skin to Mr. Pauley and “engaged his services to tan the skin to create leather,” an indictment states.
From September 2018 to July 2021, Mr. Taylor transferred more than $37,000 in electronic payments to Ms. Lodge for body parts that had been stolen by Mr. Lodge, prosecutors said.
In one transaction, Mr. Taylor sent Ms. Lodge $1,000 with a memo that read “head number 7,” prosecutors said. As part of another payment, he sent Ms. Lodge $200 with a memo that read, “braiiiiiins,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Pauley bought remains from Ms. Scott, who stole body parts from the mortuary and crematory in Little Rock where she worked.
Among the remains that Ms. Scott stole were the corpses of two stillborn babies that were supposed to have been cremated and returned to their families, prosecutors said. Ms. Scott was previously indicted in Arkansas on charges including mail fraud, wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property, prosecutors said.
Mr. Pauley sold many of the remains he bought to others, including Mathew Lampi, 52, of East Bethel, Minn., prosecutors said.
“Some crimes defy understanding,” Gerard M. Karam, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “The theft and trafficking of human remains strikes at the very essence of what makes us human.”
Christopher R. Opiel, a lawyer for Mr. Taylor, declined to comment on the charges. Mr. Lampi also declined to comment. George B. Morledge IV, a lawyer for Ms. Scott, said that his client had pleaded not guilty and was in jail, awaiting a mental health evaluation.
“Before we start jumping to conclusions about what was going on with Ms. Scott,” Mr. Morledge said, “we need to let this play out in the court system.”
It was not immediately clear if the Lodges, Ms. Maclean and Mr. Pauley had lawyers.
The Lodges both made initial court appearances on Wednesday in Concord, N.H., and were released on their own personal recognizance, The Associated Press reported. They declined to comment as they left the courthouse, The A.P. reported.
In their statement to the Harvard Medical School community, the two deans said that investigators believed that Mr. Lodge acted without the knowledge or cooperation of anyone else at the university. Mr. Lodge, who was hired in 1995, was fired on May 6, Harvard Medical School said.
As an employee of the Anatomical Gift Program, he did not manage other people, but was responsible for preparing for and accepting donors’ bodies, coordinating embalming, overseeing the storage and movement of cadavers, and preparing remains to be transported to a crematory, the medical school said.
In their email, the deans said that the school had been working to identify which donated cadavers may have been affected by theft.
“We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others,” they wrote. “The reported incidents are a betrayal of H.M.S. and, most importantly, each of the individuals who altruistically chose to will their bodies to H.M.S. through the Anatomical Gift Program to advance medical education and research.”