It's bad enough when you've got employees with sticky fingers. It's downright ghoulish when you're the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.
Investigations and police stings uncovered what one official called a "culture" of thievery in the office, which deals with up to 6,000 bodies a year. But officials say they're on the way to restoring credibility there with the help of new workers, new rules, and new surveillance.
The medical examiner's office has a long, dark history of trouble. It has sold brains and lent out whole bodies to medical researchers, occasionally misplaced bodies, and notified the wrong next of kin, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Evidence was botched in high-profile cases.
Then came news of the theft ring. Last August, the U.S. attorney subpoenaed all 20 forensic investigators and technicians. By December, a grand jury had indicted 10 city workers, along with six alleged outside accomplices.
The charges included stealing cash, credit cards, guns, and other valuables from the dead. The credit cards, funneled to accomplices, were used for tens of thousands of dollars of illegal purchases, the News reports.
So far, six former city workers and five outsiders have pleaded guilty. The rest await their day in federal court this summer.
Investigators and technicians have not been allowed to pick up bodies since September. A private ambulance service has performed that work under under a temporary contract.
New hiring rules require a background check that has already weeded out one applicant who concealed a criminal record, according to the News.
"The public has to know the city does care, and they do," said Ben Redmond, Philadelphia's inspector general. "That's why the inspector general and the U.S. attorney have moved so aggressively because it was such an egregious situation."
Source: Philadelphia Daily News