Imagine having your loved one's remains cremated and then finding out the ashes might belong to a total stranger.
Inside Edition spoke to people who say their relatives' bodies were desecrated after they were donated for medical research. Unbeknownst to them, they say, the bodies were actually chopped up and sold for huge profits as part of an illegal body broker business. In return, some got back a box of ashes, but several of the people Inside Edition brought together for an interview said they’re unsure whose ashes are really in the box.
“We have no knowledge of what’s in the box,” said Sue Visser, who donated her husband’s body to medical research.
"I have no idea what's in here," said Troy Harper, showing a box of ashes.
Some donors specifically stated they did not want their loved one’s body used in military testing. But some bodies were still sold off to testing facilities anyway.
"They used him as a crash test dummy for military testing," said Jill Hansen, who said her husband's body was blown up at a Department of Defense facility in Virginia.
"I was devastated," she told Inside Edition's Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero.
Added Nancy Cooper: "What they did was disgusting."
The man they say is responsible? Steve Gore, director of Phoenix, Arizona-based Biological Resource Center. According to authorities, he reportedly sold more than 20,000 body parts from 5,000 bodies over the course of 10 years before the facility was shuttered in 2014.
When authorities shut down Gore's facility, they say they found coolers packed with 10 tons' worth of human remains.
Attorney Michael Burg, of Denver-based law firm Burg Simpson Eldregde Hersh & Jardin, is representing the victims' family members in a lawsuit against Gore and Biological Resource Center of Arizona. He said they never realized that their loved ones' bodies would be butchered and sold off for thousands of dollars when they signed the center's consent forms.
"It's really body snatching without them having to dig up the graves," Burg told Inside Edition. "They lied to them."
Gore pleaded guilty to a felony charge of mishandling human remains. He was sentenced to 12 months suspended jail time and received four years probation. He is contesting the lawsuit brought by family members, denying their allegations.
Guerrero caught up with him when he stopped for gas.
"I'd like to ask you about your illegal body brokering business," said Guerrero. "Were you desecrating those bodies, sir?"
"I was not," Gore replied.
"What would you like to say to the victims' families?" Guerrero asked.
He did not reply and drove away.
There are no federal laws regulating the sale of body parts for research or education, and few state laws apply either. Experts say donations are important and save lives but suggest families ask specific questions to make sure they are comfortable with how their loved ones' bodies will be used.