CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Three men have been arrested on charges of performing castrations on apparently willing participants in a sadomasochistic "dungeon" in a rural house, authorities said Friday.
"It's extremely bizarre," District Attorney Michael Bonfoey said in a telephone interview. "It's incredible the amount of ways that people can find to run afoul of the law."
Sheriff's investigators said Richard Sciara, 61, Danny Reeves, 49, and Michael Mendez, 60, admitted performing at least eight surgeries, including castrations and testicle replacements, on six consenting clients over the past year. None of the three is licensed to practice medicine, officials said.
The suspects, all residents of the house in Haywood County, in western North Carolina, where the surgeries were allegedly performed, were arrested Thursday. They were being held on $150,000 bond each and could make their first court appearances Monday, Bonfoey said.
The sheriff's office had investigated reports of sadomasochistic acts at the house in 2004, but concluded there was nothing illegal going on because the participants appeared to be willing adults.
Renewed scrutiny, prompted by a citizen who made "strange statements" to Bonfoey, revealed that illegal surgeries were taking place, the prosecutor said.
Detectives who searched the home Wednesday found medical supplies that included scalpels, sutures, bandages, anesthetic and artificial replacement testicles, sheriff's officials said.
Also seized were videotaping equipment, and video recordings of the surgeries, sheriff's officials said. Photos and videos made at the "dungeon" were apparently featured on a locally produced sadomasochistic Web site, officials said.
"This right here beats anything I have ever seen," Sheriff Tom Alexander told the Asheville Citizen-Times, which reported that victims may have come from as far away as South America.
Each man faces 10 felony counts — five each of castration without malice and conspiracy to commit castration without malice — as well as eight misdemeanor counts of performing medical acts without a license. Each felony carries a maximum three years and three months in prison, Bonfoey said.
"Assuming that the victims consented to this — and we don't know that for sure yet — that doesn't make it a defense," Bonfoey said. "We can't have people who are not medical doctors lopping off limbs and other body parts."