Colorado Funeral-Home Owners Sentenced for Selling Corpses
A United States court sentenced a former Colorado funeral home owner and her mother for secretly selling parts or full corpses of hundreds of dead people to body brokers while assuring the families of the deceased that their loved ones were cremated.
Body brokers are companies or individuals that buy and sell cadavers or human body parts for research, training, and other uses. While the market for organ transplantation is heavily regulated in the United States, the use of cadaver parts is not.
The two women would sell parts of the deceased and hand over to the families the ashes of incomplete bodies. If they would sell the entire body, they would give the families the cremated remains of someone or something else.
“Megan Hess, age 46, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after earlier pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting,” the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday in a statement.
Her 69-year-old mother, Shirly Koch, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after earlier pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting.
According to the plea deal, from 2010 to 2018, Koch was meeting with families requesting cremation services for their deceased loved ones while Hess, the proprietor of Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado, who also ran a body donor service, then stole and sold parts or whole corpses.
“In many instances, Koch and Hess neither discussed nor obtained authorization for donation of decedents’ bodies or body parts for body broker services. In other instances, the topic of donation was raised by Hess or Koch, and specifically rejected by the families,” read the statement.
In several cases the women sold the remains of dead people whose families approved to donate minor tissue samples, tumors, or sections of skin.
Hess and Koch also violated regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding the transportation of hazardous materials, as they “would also ship bodies and body parts that tested positive for, or belonging to people who had died from, infectious diseases, including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, after certifying to buyers that the remains were disease free.”
For such shipments they would use regular mail or commercial flights.
“The defendants’ conduct was horrific and morbid and driven by greed,” U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan said.
“We sincerely hope this punishment deters like-minded fraudsters in the future,” he concluded.