Funeral home owner pleads guilty in body sales case

U.S.

(NEXSTAR) – The operator of a funeral home in Colorado has pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud as part of a plea agreement stemming from accusations that she and her mother illegally sold body parts from “hundreds” of bodies they were instructed to cremate.

Megan Hess, 45, entered her plea during a hearing on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Colorado.

Hess and her mother, Shirley Koch, had operated Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, Colorado, between 2010 and 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. They were indicted in 2020, following accusations of illegally selling body parts or entire bodies to third parties who were seeking the remains for medical, educational or scientific purposes — and “without the consent of the family of the deceased.”

In some cases, Hess and Koch had knowingly shipped bodies or parts from victims who had infectious diseases. They also provided the deceaseds’ families with cremated remains “with the representation that the cremains were (those) of the deceased when, frequently, that was not the case,” according to a 2020 indictment notice.

The two were charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials, according to the indictment.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Hess admitted she “exceeded the scope of the consent” when explaining why she was pleading guilty to mail fraud, Colorado’s The Daily Sentinel reported.

In pleading guilty to mail fraud, other charges against Hess will be dropped, according to the news outlet.

Hess will be sentenced at a later date. Koch, her mother, has a hearing scheduled for July 12, according to the Associated Press.

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