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Businessman found guilty in UCLA's body parts scandal

May 14, 2009 | 11:16 am

A businessman accused of selling body parts from corpses donated to UCLA medical school in a scandal that tarnished the reputation of the university's willed body program was found guilty today in Los Angeles Superior Court of conspiring to commit grand theft, embezzlement and tax evasion .

Prosecutors alleged that Ernest V. Nelson, 51, cut up heads, torsos and other parts from donated bodies and sold them without UCLA's permission to medical and pharmaceutical research companies, collecting $1.5 million between 1999 and 2003.

The bodies were donated to UCLA for medical and scientific research at the university. The scandal over the sale of the body parts became public in 2004 and prompted UCLA to shut down the program for more than 18 months.

Prosecutors said Nelson hatched the scheme with the director of the willed body program, Henry Reid, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to commit theft. Reid received checks from Nelson totaling $43,000 in return for giving him access to the bodies, prosecutors said.

Nelson's attorney argued that the payments to Reid were legitimate. He accused the program director of pocketing the money instead of forwarding it to the university.

-- Jack Leonard