More than 200 families were duped by a former Colorado funeral home owner who sold the body parts of their relatives without informing them.
Megan Hess operated a funeral home, Sunset Mesa, and a body parts entity, Donor Services, from the same building in Colorado (Reuters photo)
By India Today Web Desk: A 46-year-old woman who is the former owner of a funeral home in Colorado was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on Tuesday for dissecting 560 corpses and selling body parts without permission. The accused, Megan Hess cheated the relatives of the dead and stole body parts using forged donor forms, officials told Reuters.
Hess pleaded guilty to fraud in July. The 20-year term was the maximum allowed under law.
She operated Sunset Mesa, a funeral home and Donor Services, a body parts entity, from the same building in Montrose, Colorado.
Hess’s 69-year-old mother, Shirley Koch, also pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 15 years. According to court records, Koch’s primary role was to chop up the bodies.
WHAT IS THE CASE?
The case came to light following a 2016-2018 Reuters investigative series on the sale of body parts in US. Reuters was informed about the mother-daughter duo’s operation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided the business a few weeks after the story was published.
The prosecutors in the case described the case as one of the most significant body parts cases in recent US history.
The judge ordered that Hess and Koch be sent to prison immediately.
Meanwhile, Hess’ lawyer justified her actions and said they could be attributed to a traumatic brain injury at age 18.
Erin Smith, one of the victims who testified in court, said the duo dismembered her mother and sold her shoulders, knees and feet for profit.
Selling organs such as hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplant is illegal in US and must be donated. However, Hess’ dealt in the sale of heads, arms and spines – something which is not regulated by federal law.
According to the prosecutors, the surgical-training companies and other firms which bought the arms, legs, heads and torsos from Hess did not know they had been fraudulently obtained. They added that Hess charged families up to $1,000 for cremations that never occurred.
More than 200 families fell victim to Hess’ operation and received cremated ashes from bins mixed with the remains of different cadavers.