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Ernest Nelson Found Guilty in UCLA Body-Parts Program Scandal

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From the Los Angeles Times:

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 THE PROGRAM, DURING 1999-2003, WHEN ERNEST NELSON AND HENRY REID, THE PROGRAM’S FORMER DIRECTOR, WERE PURCHASING AND SELLING PARTS FROM ONE ANOTHER, WAS NOT CONSIDERED AS VENERABLE AS UCLA HAS TRIED TO PORTRAY IT; IN FACT, UCLA’S WILLED BODY PROGRAM WAS STILL RECOVERING FROM A 1993 INCIDENT (CADAVERS, FROM THE WILLED BODY PROGRAM WERE HANDLED "WITHOUT DIGNITY" AND DUMPED INTO THE PACIFIC OCEAN ALONG WITH OTHER MEDICAL WASTE FROM THE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE) 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 PEOPLE, THROUGHOUT THE TRIAL AGAINST MR. NELSON, TRIED ARGUING THAT UCLA HAD LOST $1.5 MILLION VIA NELSON AND REID’S CHICANERY. HOWEVER, IF NELSON HAD STOLEN $1.5 FROM UCLA, THEN LOGICALLY SPEAKING, UCLA WOULD HAVE NEEDED TO HAVE SOLD THE PARTS ON ITS OWN AND COLLECTED THAT MUCH MONEY, RIGHT? AND IF THAT’S THE CASE, THEN UCLA WOULD HAVE BEEN PARTICIPATING IN ILLEGAL BODY PARTS TRAFFICKING; MEANING THEY NEVER WOULD HAVE (NOR SHOULD HAVE) BEEN ABLE TO MAKE THAT MUCH MONEY BY USING, NOT SELLING, THE DONATED BODIES FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH. THEREFORE, THE IDEA THAT NELSON STOLE OVER A MILLION DOLLARS FROM UCLA IS NOT ONLY A REACH, BUT IT’S AN OUTLANDISH ARGUMENT.

The bodies were donated to UCLA for medical and scientific research (AH, SEE, FOR RESEARCH, NOT FOR UCLA TO SELL AT $1.5 MILLION) 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. UCLA ALSO HAD TO ATTEND TO OTHER PROBLEMS THAT WERE DISCOVERED THROUGHOUT THE PROGRAM, TOO: SANITARY ISSUES; "CADAVER ROOMS" THAT WERE OVERCROWDED; MAJOR ACCOUNTING, BOOKKEEPING AND INVENTORY ISSUES, ETC.

Prosecutors said Nelson hatched the scheme with the director of the willed body program, Henry Reid (WHO, BY THE WAY, WAS NEVER CALLED TO THE STAND TO TESTIFY AGAINST NELSON, EVEN THOUGH THE PEOPLE’S CASE WAS LARGELY BUILT AROUND REID’S ACTIONS, INTENT AND MALEVOLENCE AND THEN HOW NELSON WORKED WITH HIM TO SELL THE BODY PARTS (AND PREPARE THEM) TO PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL RESEARCH COMPANIES. WHY WASN’T REID CALLED TO THE STAND? BECAUSE, INCREDULOUSLY, THE PROSECUTION FORGOT TO FILE THE CORRECT PAPERWORK AND FOLLOW ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES IN ORDER TO TRANSFER REID TO LOS ANGELES FROM THE FEDERAL PRISON HE’S CURRENTLY RESIDING IN WITHIN A TIMELY MANNER.), 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. (WHICH WAS AN INTERESTING ARGUMENT: UCLA HAD THREE OF ITS EMPLOYEES, INCLUDING DR. ROBERT B. TRELEASE, A PATHOLOGY PROFESSOR WHO FREQUENTLY USED BODIES FROM THE WILLED BODY PROGRAM TO INSTRUCT MEDICAL STUDENTS AND WHO, IN THE PAST, HAD A MORE ACTIVE ROLE WITHIN THE PROGRAM, SET UP A BANK ACCOUNT, COUNTER TO TYPICAL UCLA ACCOUNTING PRACTICES, AT A WESTWOOD BANK OF AMERICA BRANCH, WHICH WOULD BE THE SAME ACCOUNT USED BY HENRY REID TO FUNNEL THE MONEY MADE FROM SELLING PARTS TO NELSON, INTO HIS OWN PERSONAL BANK ACCOUNT. UCLA, BASED ON THIS INFORMATION, SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THEN WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THAT BANK ACCOUNT, CONSIDERING THREE RESPECTED EMPLOYEES SET UP THE ACCOUNT BACK IN 1995, TWO YEARS BEFORE REID BECAME THE PROGRAM’S DIRECTOR… HMM…?)

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