N. Carolina man admits fraud in sales of human tissue

RALEIGH — A man who ran a human tissue harvesting company in Raleigh pleaded guilty Monday to federal mail fraud charges, stemming from allegations that he fabricated the identities of tissue donors to hide their diseases.

Philip Joe Guyett Jr., 41, could receive up to 60 years in prison for three counts of mail fraud when he is sentenced June 1. He entered the guilty plea during a brief appearance before U.S. District Judge Earl Britt, who allowed him to remain free on bail pending his sentencing.

Guyett said little in court except to answer a series of questions from Britt about the plea. He had to give up his passport, though the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan, stipulated that he is not a flight risk. Guyett also agreed to cooperate with investigators looking into his handling of human tissue, which he procured and sent to processors.

He was charged with falsifying blood samples "for tissue he knew would be otherwise rejected for purchase because the presence of infectious or communicable diseases would be detected in the donor blood sample."

Guyet ran a company called Donor Referral Services until it was shut down in 2006. Prosecutors said that in documents sent to processors via Federal Express between March and December 2005, he lied about the deceased donors' ages, causes of deaths, and medical histories, including whether the donors suffered from communicable diseases.

The case raised alarms about the safety of donated body parts used in more than 1.5 million knee reconstructions, heart valve repairs, skin grafts and other procedures each year.

In a notice sent nationally in August 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said no illnesses had been reported as a result of the case.

Guyett, who has moved to California, previously denied wrongdoing and said that he was being unfairly targeted by a federal agency that lacks clear rules on tissue trade and has little record of enforcing them.

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