MONTROSE, CO – A former funeral home owner and her mother have been convicted of fraud after it was discovered they had been selling body parts of the deceased for profit without consent from the family members.
The former owner was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison while her mother was sentenced to 15 years.
Megan Hess "organ harvested" body parts from 560 dead bodies in Colorado. Under current laws in 40 out of 50 states, according to Reuters, anyone can dissect and sell human bodies. pic.twitter.com/mJqEKgWzYY
— Sk Boz Phd (@ProfessorBoz) January 5, 2023
Organizations that take care of the deceased throughout the country often contract with an outside agency that solicits tissues and organs for transplantation services.
Both entities are required by law to ensure that family members of the deceased consent to any harvesting before it occurs which seemingly was not the case with Sunset Mesa and Donor Services in Montrose.
The former owner of both companies, 46-year-old Megan Hess, plead guilty in federal court in July of this year after an investigation showed she was defrauding the relatives of the deceased by selling the body parts of 560 corpses without consent. After she plead guilty, the federal judge sentenced her to the maximum allowed by law, 20 years.
Hess’ mother, 69-year-old Shirley Koch, plead guilty as well to fraud and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Koch’s role in the scheme was the dissection of the corpses for the body parts that were being offered for sale.
Federal authorities reported some of the remains that were sent to different buyers for medical research or other legal means that were infected with infectious diseases without notifying them. Some of the remains sent had tested positive for or died from Hepatitis B and C, HIV, and other deadly diseases.
Hess and Koch also lied to family members requesting their loved ones be cremated by taking up to $1,000 for the service while not performing it. Instead, Hess and Koch would send the loved one’s ashes from other people who had been cremated while selling their family member’s body parts.
A Colorado funeral home operator Megan Hess accused of illegally selling body parts and giving clients fake ashes was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday by a federal court judge.
Her 69-year-old Mom and accomplices Shirley Koch sentenced to 15-years in prison.
— (IG) Hallesblogafrica (@hallesblog) January 4, 2023
Federal prosecutor Tim Neff explained part of the fraudulent scheme that Hess and Koch plead guilty to in a court filing:
“Hess and Koch used their funeral home at times to essentially steal bodies and body parts using fraudulent and forged donor forms. Hess and Kock’s conduct caused immense emotional pain for the families and next of kin.”
After hearing the case, United States District Judge Christine M. Arguello reported this case was the most “emotionally draining case” she had ever heard. Judge Arguello said:
“This is the most emotionally draining case I have ever experienced on the bench. It’s concerning to the court that defendant Hess refuses to assume responsibility for her conduct.”
Hess’ defense attorney, attempting to get a lighter sentence for Hess, argued that she had been unfairly targeted as a “witch…monster…ghoul” during the investigation.
Instead, the lawyer claimed that Hess may not have been fully culpable for her actions because she is a “broken human being” due to a traumatic brain injury when she was younger.
The investigation into Hess and Koch was seemingly started after Reuters began an investigative series regarding the sale of body parts throughout the country.
According to Reuters, former employees of Koch and Hess reported the pair performed dissections of human remains without the consent of the next of kin. A few months after the original story was published, the FBI executed a search warrant on the funeral home.
🇺🇸Funeral Parlour Owner Gets 20 Years for Selling Body Parts
Megan Hess, 46, has been sentenced to 20 years in US federal prison for defrauding relatives of the dead by dissecting 560 corpses and selling body parts without permission using fake donor forms.
RT India pic.twitter.com/N4YNx8OYnl
— Amicable News (@amicablenews) January 4, 2023
After hearing all arguments, Judge Arguello lowered the harshest prison sentence she could order, twenty years. The Judge ordered Hess to be immediately remanded to custody.
While Hess received a harsh sentence, her mother, Koch, got a fifteen-year sentence, most likely in part because she owned up for her actions and noted remorse to the judge.
In all, federal authorities were able to identify 26 different victims from whom Hess and Koch removed body parts and organs without the family members’ consent. And, in some cases, they lied and told grieving family members that their loved ones had been cremated after charging up to $1,000…when they were not.
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