A Pennsylvania man who collected and preserved human remains pleaded guilty Thursday to his role in an alleged wide-ranging human body parts trafficking scheme from Harvard Medical School.
Jeremy Pauley, 41, faces up to 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property for knowingly buying and selling human remains stolen from the Harvard Medical School mortuary, as according to court documents.
Pauley is among seven people charged in connection with the alleged thefts from Harvard’s morgue, which authorities say took place from 2018 to early 2023. Civil proceedings are currently underway against the families of the donors.
In an email to HuffPost, Johnathan White, Pauley’s attorney, said his client’s actions do not define him.
“We believe people can make bad decisions, but that doesn’t define them,” White said. “Mr. Pauley has accepted responsibility for his poor decisions and looks forward to the opportunity to present any mitigating circumstances to the court in due course.”
Prosecutors said Pauley knowingly purchased a variety of stolen remains and body parts, including bones, skulls, skin, dissected faces, heads and internal organs, also known as “wets,” from Harvard and the University of Arkansas Medical School.
Pauley then sold some of these stolen remains on Facebook to other collectors or those with a similar fascination with human remains. He also agreed in 2021 to tan human chest skin into leather for Katrina Maclean, a client also charged in connection with the alleged human trafficking ring.
In exchange for Pauley’s tanning services, Maclean agreed to pay him with more human skin that she had purchased from Cedric Lodge, then head of the Harvard Medical School mortuary, who stole human body parts for research and stored them at his home . prosecutors said. (Maclean and Lodge have pleaded not guilty, and their case is ongoing.)
According to prosecutors, Pauley sent the tanned human skin to Maclean in Massachusetts and a month later she sent human skin to Pauley. She then allegedly asked if it had arrived, saying: “I wanted to make sure it got to you and I don’t expect agents at my door.”
In October 2021, Pauley sent $8,800 to Maclean via PayPal for payments for stolen human remains.
Prosecutors said Pauley would later meet Candace Chapman Scott, who worked at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she transported, cremated and embalmed human remains. Scott also pleaded not guilty to 12 charges brought against her.
According to court documents, Scott initially wrote to Pauley and asked him if he or anyone he knew would be interested in purchasing a fully intact embalmed brain. Pauley responded that he was interested in purchasing both the brain and heart and agreed to pay $1,200 via PayPal.
As the months went by, Pauley continued to pay Scott hundreds and thousands of dollars for additional stolen body parts, including more skin, brains and limbs, and another $300 for a stillborn boy that Scott was supposed to cremate, prosecutors said.
During this time, Pauley sold and traded body parts to others who came under federal scrutiny, including James Nott.
Nott was arrested on firearms charges in July, and after a search, federal agents said they discovered at least 40 skulls “decorating” his home in Kentucky. No charges were filed against Nott in connection with the human remains found in his possession.
Pauley addressed the allegations against him in a since-deleted post on Facebook, saying that most states allow the sale of human remains. He defended his collection and others who shared his hobby.
“Now I completely understand that it’s not for everyone. I understand that some people don’t show the respect that others would like to see. But over the course of my time, I have met some of the most intelligent, wholesome, and respectful people you could meet,” Pauley wrote.
Lodge and three other defendants charged in connection with the alleged thefts are scheduled to go to trial in December.