- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The owner of an Arizona company that arranges the donation of bodies for medicine and research avoided prison Friday for his role in mishandling the donations.

Stephen Gore was sentenced to four years of probation and one year of deferred jail time.

If Gore fails to comply with the terms of his probation and plea agreement, the jail sentence could be imposed. But if he adheres to the conditions until next December, the jail term could be dismissed by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.

Gore, 48, had pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of illegally conducting an enterprise. Court paperwork showed he could have been sentenced to between 2 ½ years to 7 years in prison and fined up to $150,000.

As part of his plea agreement, Gore agreed to pay $120,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Defense, which had arranged to use bodies from the business for research but ultimately was unable to use them.

“In our sentencing memorandum, we asked the judge to sentence Gore to prison,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “Although Gore did not get the sentence we requested, we hope families involved can begin to heal and find some closure.”

Biological Resource Center of Arizona was the subject of a two-year investigation by the FBI and Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Gore acknowledged his firm provided vendors with human tissue that was contaminated and used in ways that went against the wishes of the donors.

The company’s body donation facility in south Phoenix was raided by authorities wearing hazardous-material gear in January 2014. The remains have since been held in a giant freezer at Arizona Army National Guard headquarters.

Families had given their loved ones’ remains with the intention that they be used by researchers to study disease, develop treatments or perfect surgical techniques.

But the body parts were seized by authorities and became evidence in a cross-country criminal investigation into whether Biological Resource Center and other out-of-state facilities handled the remains as donors intended and properly screened for infectious diseases.

How many people the enterprise affected remains unclear.

Remains have been returned to some families while others are still waiting, according to authorities.

Cadaver donation companies distribute remains to universities, medical device manufacturers and drug companies. The companies pay the associated costs and use the bodies for medical education and research, and families save burial or cremation costs.

It’s illegal to sell human tissue that’s contaminated by diseases such as HIV, AIDS and hepatitis.

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