Brooklyn, NY – Two former employees of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) are facing federal charges for stealing from dead bodies entrusted to their care.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann unsealed two criminal complaints on Tuesday morning that alleged 66-year-old Charles McFadgen and 50-year-old Willie Garcon stole and used credit cards and debit cards they found on dead bodies in the custody of the city, according to a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).
Prosecutors said in charging documents that as employees of OCME, McFadgen and Garcon “had a solemn duty to care for the bodies of the deceased and treat their personal effects with the utmost respect.”
“Instead, the defendants brazenly pilfered the belongings of the deceased, stole their property and enriched themselves by making unauthorized purchases worth several thousand dollars,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Mark Lesko said. “These arrests serve as a warning to corrupt city employees that they will be prosecuted and held accountable for their criminal acts and breach of public trust.”
Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said the arrests should serve as a reminder that illegal actions have consequences, according to the DoJ press release.
“Government employees, regardless of their position, are supposed to serve their fellow citizens, not steal from them,” Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office William Sweeney Jr. said. “The alleged behavior of these two former medical examiner office employees stripped families of the dignity they expected to be afforded to their deceased family members, and it broke federal law. Today’s charges serve as a reminder that there are consequences for illegal behavior.”
Authorities said McFadgen has admitted to investigators that he had made $13,500 in purchases on cards belonging to dead people, WNBC reported.
Charging documents alleged McFadgen told investigators he had been given as many as 11 credit card by colleagues in his 13 years working as a technician for the OCME.
McFadgen said he even received stolen credit cards off bodies after he had retired, WNBC reported.
Prosecutors said the McFadgen made dozens of purchases with the cards attached to a rewards account in his own name at a pharmacy.
Prosecutors said Gascon was employed by the OCME from May of 2018 through July of 2020 to transport bodies from their place of death to the morgue, WPIX reported.
He was also transporting bodies for the Burlington County, New Jersey medical examiner’s office at the same time.
Gascon allegedly made $6,500 in purchases on credit cards belonging to dead people, WNBC reported.
Prosecutors said Gascon was arrested in May of 2020 with the property of four people whose bodies had passed through the OCME.
Charging documents revealed that Gascon had transported the bodies of three of the four people whose credit cards he was carrying, WPIX reported.
Both men are facing federal charges of access device fraud which carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison should they be convicted.
Investigators are actively seeking other victims of coroner’s office employees, WPIX reported.
“Individuals who have experienced similar issues with theft from deceased loved ones are encouraged to make a report to DOI’s Office of Inspector General for OCME at (212) 825-5904,” New York Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett said.
“As representatives of the City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner, these defendants should have provided compassion, dignity, and respect for the deceased New Yorkers they were serving,” Garnett continued. “Instead, they exploited the access of their positions and breached the trust the City placed in them by stealing from the dead, according to the charges.”
McFadgen and Gascon were both expected to appear in federal court on Tuesday, WNBC reported.