Funeral home owner in US pleads guilty to body parts for cash scheme

Colorado’s funeral home director stole the body and parts of the dead and then resold them.

Megan Hess, Sunset Mesa Funeral Home owner, has admitted to taking hundreds of body and organ parts, and selling them to people and companies who bought them for educational, scientific and medical purposes. A plea agreement was filed Tuesday. 

Hess and Shirley Koch were initially charged in connection with the operation of the Montrose funeral home. They faced six counts of mail fraud as well as three charges for transporting hazardous material. She pled guilty to lesser charges – one count of mail fraud and one of aiding and abetting – just weeks before her trial was set to begin.

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Hess was charged with stealing and selling body parts. The lucrative scheme continued through 2018, according to the plea agreement. After opening the funeral home with Koch in 2009, the pair launched a nonprofit “Services for donors” company out of the same address and sold the body parts of the deceased while providing fake ashes to grieving relatives, charging families $1,000 or more for the bogus cremains. 

The two women were also accused of shipping to their mail-order customers bodies that had tested positive for – or belonged to individuals who had died from – an array of infectious diseases, including hepatitis B and C and HIV, all while certifying the corpses as disease-free.

Authorities claim that the mother-daughter pair were getting twice as much for each body. This allowed them to be able to offer lower prices than their competitors and ensure a steady supply of fresh flesh. They reportedly made enough money from gold teeth taken from body parts to be able to travel the entire family to Disneyland one year. 

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Hess will be serving a maximum 20-year sentence in prison. However, prosecutors seek a 12- to 15 year sentence. Koch will still be tried and could face up to 135 year in federal prison for all of the charges. 

Colorado funeral homes are among the most unregulated in America, says Matt Soper. This case has led local authorities in Colorado to make changes to state laws. The new regulations prohibit funeral home brokers from being operated in Colorado. A second regulation increases the regulatory oversight of state funeral homes. Finally, a third law increases penalties for abusing corpses.



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