A Colorado funeral home management company accused of illegally selling body parts and giving clients fake ashes has pleaded guilty to mail fraud in federal court.
daily guard Reports Megan Hess faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison after she filed a petition Tuesday at Grand Junction. The guard said other charges against Hess would be dropped under the plea agreement.
The 45-year-old Hess and her mother, Shirley Koch, ran the Sunset Mesa funeral home in Montrose. they wereHe was charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of dangerous materials.
A grand jury indictment said that from 2010 through 2018, Hess and Koch offered to cremate and provide remains to families at a cost of $1,000 or more, but that many of the cremations never occurred.
Authorities said Hess set up a nonprofit organization in 2009 called the Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation as a body brokerage service that does business as donor services.
On dozens of occasions, Hess and Koch have transferred corpses or body parts to third parties for research without the families’ knowledge, according to the US Department of Justice. Authorities said the transfers were made through the Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation and donor services.
Authorities said Hess and Koch also shipped bodies and parts of the body that tested positive for, or belonged to, infectious diseases, including hepatitis B and C, and HIV, although buyers believed the remains were disease-free.
Hess and Koch originally pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Hess is tentatively due to be sentenced in January. A change is scheduled for Koch’s appeal hearing on July 12.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 12 to 15 years for Hess.
State regulators have received complaints of wrongdoing at the Montrose facility but state law does not allow them to enter a funeral home unless there are criminal charges.
Actors Matt Sober and Dylan Roberts said they plan to change that.
“One of the things I’ve heard over and over again from families is that it was like a second death,” Sober told the station.
He said Colorado funeral home managers are among the least organized in the country.
“It’s kind of hitting your gut,” Super said. “You can’t believe brokering corpses, selling body parts, chopping up body parts, and giving people concrete, are not things you hear about in the USA.”