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Ex-Colorado funeral home owner bags 20 year sentence for selling body parts

A former Colorado funeral homeowner was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for defrauding relatives of the dead by dissecting 560 corpses and selling body parts without permission.

Megan Hess, who is 46, pleaded guilty to fraud in July. She operated a funeral home, Sunset Mesa, and a body parts entity, Donor Services, from the same building in Montrose, Colorado.

At her funeral home, Hess charged families up to $1,000 for cremations that never occurred, prosecutors said, and she offered others free cremations in exchange for a body donation.

The 20-year jail term was the maximum allowed under the law.

While her 69-year-old mother, Shirley Koch, also pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 15 years. Koch’s central role was chopping up the bodies, court records show.

The federal case was triggered by a 2016 to 2018 Reuters investigative series about the sale of body parts in the United States, a virtually unregulated industry.

Former workers told Reuters that Hess and Koch conducted unauthorized dismemberments of bodies, and a few weeks after a 2018 story was published, the FBI raided the business.

In their filing, prosecutors stressed the “macabre nature” of Hess’s scheme and described it as one of the most significant body parts cases in recent US history.

Prosecutors also said she lied to more than 200 families, who received cremated ashes from bins mixed with the remains of different cadavers.

The judge ordered that Hess and Koch be sent to prison immediately.

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas