DENVER – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado today announced the failure to operate Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado, in federal prison for illegally selling body parts or whole bodies without the consent of the family of the deceased.
Megan Hess, 46, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting. According to the agreement in the agreement, from 2010 to 2018, the accused and others stole the bodies or parts of the bodies of hundreds of victims, and then resold them. corpses to people who were involved in buying corpses for body trade services. Under the auspices of the Sunset Mesa Funeral Director, the accused often met with the victims seeking arrangements for themselves or others. dear to those who have died. During these meetings, the accused and others will present to the victims, the Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors will cremate the deceased and return them to their remains at home. Instead, the accused and others would harvest body parts from, or prepare the whole body of, dead people for sale in commercial services.
Shirley Koch, 69, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after initially pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting. According to the agreement, from 2010 to 2018, Koch participated in meeting with families seeking burials for their deceased loved ones. At several times, it was not discussed whether Koch and Hess received permission to donate organs or body parts for commercial service. In other cases, the topic of the donation was raised by Hess or Koch, and specifically rejected by the families. In such cases, although without permission, Koch and Hess retrieved body parts from, or otherwise prepared whole bodies of hundreds of dead people for body trade services. In the few cases where families agreed to donate, Hess and Koch sold the remains of those deceased beyond the family’s consent, which was often limited to small parts, tumors, or parts of the body. skin Hess and Koch also gave the families creams with the picture of the cream of the dead body but, usually, that was not the case.
According to the agreements, Hess and Koch will also send bodies and body parts that have tested positive for, or died from, infectious diseases, including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV. , after confirming to the buyers of the remains. no disease. These shipments by mail or on commercial aircraft violate Department of Transportation regulations regarding the transportation of dangerous goods.
Judge Christine M. Arguello sentenced Hess and Koch on January 3, 2023.
“The actions of the accused were dangerous and bad and motivated by greed. They took advantage of many victims who were at their lowest point due to the recent death of a loved one. We hope that these prison terms will give the victim’s family members a lot of peace as they move forward in the process of grieving,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan. . “We sincerely hope this sentence deters similar fraudsters in the future.”
“These two women kidnapped their victims and turned on them in a time of grief and sorrow. But instead of offering leadership, these greedy women betrayed the trust of hundreds of victims and destroyed their loved ones,” said FBI Denver Acting Special Agent in Charge Leonard Carollo. ” Without knowledge or consent, the women disrespected the wishes of the grieving victims and mutilated the bodies of their family members to sell them for profit. These two criminals continued their atrocities for many years, no repentance or remorse was shown even after they were exposed. Nothing can ensure comfort for the victims or repair the damage, but perhaps this sentence could mark the end of a terrible chapter in their lives.”
“Together with our law enforcement and law enforcement partners, we are committed to pursuing those who put public safety at risk for personal gain,” the said Cissy Tubbs, Special Agent-in-Charge, Western Region, US Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Hopefully today’s sentencing will provide a sense of justice for the families and loved ones of those affected by this depraved system.”
This case was complex and involved a detailed review of the evidence. The investigation was led by the FBI Denver Division and the Transportation Bureau of the Inspector General. This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Tim Neff, Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Weber, Assistant Attorney General Laura Hurd, with the valuable assistance of former Assistant United States Attorney Jeremy Chaffin and Victim Witness Coordinator Donna Summers.