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Accused body snatcher in coma - Joseph Nicelli suffers fall; could suffer brain damage

It appears that fate may have stepped in to judge the former owner of Daniel George Funeral Home. Joseph Nicelli, considered a major player in the mortician body-plundering scandal to rock Brooklyn last year, was reportedly in a medically-induced coma late last week after suffering serious injuries in a fall, his lawyers announced. Out on bail, Nicelli was working at a construction site in New Jersey when he reportedly fell from the roof of the building he was working on. The fall, which is being considered accidental, took place on January 4, officials said. Richard Medina, Nicelli’s attorney, informed Kings County prosecutors about his client’s medical condition last Thursday, claiming that doctors said that the former embalmer may be too incapacitated to help with his own defense. “The doctor said it’s very, very likely there will be brain damage,” Medina told reporters. “They just don’t know the extent.” Officials from the Kings County District Attorney’s office wouldn’t comment on the news, other than to say that they are still preparing to go to trial. Officials said that Nicelli, a Staten Island resident, Michael Mastromarino, Lee Crucetta and Christopher Aldorasi were all hit with a 122-count criminal indictment, charged with enterprise corruption, forgery, grand larceny, unlawful dissection and body stealing and opening graves. If convicted of the enterprise corruption charge, each man could face up to 25 years in prison, prosecutors said. Mastromarino, a former oral surgeon and head of Biomedical Tissue Services in New Jersey and Nicelli were accused of hatching the profitable plan, where they allegedly carved up the bodies of corpses set to be waked, taking tissue and bones and selling them to hospitals throughout the world with forged paperwork. Body parts cannot be sold and can only be donated with the expressed, written consent of the donor before the person dies, officials said. To make everything appear kosher on paper, Mastromarino and Nicelli allegedly forged death certificates and other documents, making it appear that the deceased wanted his or her body parts donated. Most of the bodies were allegedly looted in a special “carving room” at the Daniel George Funeral Home, 1852-56 Bath Avenue, which remained closed as of press time. “What happened here – stealing tissue from the dead and selling it for transplant without the consent of a family member – is like something out of a cheap horror movie,” Hynes said as he announced the indictments last year. “But for the thousands of relatives of the deceased whose body parts were used for profit, and the recipients of the suspect parts, this as no bad movie. This was the real thing.”

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