Colorado Funeral Home Owners Sentenced to Federal Prison for Selling Human Remains

Split image. On left: Megan Hess, on right: Shirly Koch
From left: Megan Hess, 46, Shirly Koch, 69Getty

Megan Hess, 46, and her mother, Shirly Koch, 69, stole body parts of hundreds of victims and sold them to body broker services.

The mother-daughter duo behind a Colorado funeral home selling body parts for cash has been sentenced to serve time in federal prison.

Megan Hess, 46, and her mother, Shirly Koch, 69, have been sentenced to 20 years and 15 years, respectively, after both pled guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting, according to a news release from the District of Colorado’s Department of Justice (DOJ).

From 2012 to 2018 Hess and Koch operated Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors and would meet with clients offering cremation services as well as the opportunity to donate one's remains, usually used for scientific or educational purposes, according to the release.

Unfortunately for the many victims involved, what was offered was not, in most cases, what actually happened.

For many years the pair stole body parts and bodies of hundreds of victims and ended up selling them to body broker services, according to the release. 

For those that agreed to donate, usually only small tissue samples, tumors, or portions of the skin were authorized by family but the mother-daughter duo would end up harvesting more than what was allowed, the release said.

In other instances, where families of the victims refused donation, the pair would harvest body parts without consent, according to the release.

“These two women preyed on vulnerable victims who turned to them in a time of grief and sadness. But instead of offering guidance, these greedy women betrayed the trust of hundreds of victims and mutilated their loved ones,” Leonard Carollo, FBI Denver acting special agent in charge, said in the release.

The pair also would give cremated remains back to families under the guise that it was the remains of their loved one, when the remains may have been a mix of several others’ remains or in one case, a concrete mix instead of cremains, the New York Post reported. 

Hess and Koch also sold and shipped remains with infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C, under the guise that they were disease-free, which violates Department of Transportation regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous material, said the release.

During her sentencing, Hess’s lawyer explained her client's actions were driven by a desire for medical research and could be explained by a traumatic brain injury she sustained as a child, a statement quickly opposed by Assistant U.S Attorney Tim Neff, according to The Daily Sentinel. 

“Eight years of repeated conduct of this nature is all the court needs to know about her history and character,” Neff said, The Daily Sentinel reported.

Hess decided not to address the court but Koch did, saying, “I acknowledge my guilt and take responsibility for my actions. I’m very sorry for harm I caused you and your families,” The Daily Sentinel reported.

“The defendants’ conduct was horrific and morbid and driven by greed. They took advantage of numerous victims who were at their lowest point given the recent loss of a loved one. We hope these prison sentences will bring the victim’s family members some amount of peace as they move forward in the grieving process,” U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan said in the release. “We sincerely hope this punishment deters like-minded fraudsters in the future.”

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