Colorado funeral director that sold body parts pleads guilty to mail fraud

Grand Junction, Colorado: 45-year-old Megan Hess plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday, June 5, to mail fraud for sending clients fake ashes as a part of a plea deal.


As a part of the plea deal, the remaining five counts against her of mail fraud and three counts of transporting hazardous material will be dropped.


Mail fraud carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison, a maximum probation of 3 years and up to a fine of $250,000. She is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced in January.


Prosecutors recommended a sentence between 12 and 15 years which Hess' defense attorney recommended a sentence of 2 years. She has been free of bond since her arrest.


Her mother, Shirley Koch was also charged and is scheduled to appear in court on July 12 for a change of plea hearing.


According to a statement released by the Department of Justice at the time of their indictment in March 2020, Hess and Koch were accused of establishing the Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation, a non-profit, through which bodies were brokered for medical research, sometimes without the consent of surviving family members.


"In at least dozens of instances, Hess and Koch did not follow family wishes, and neither discussed nor obtained authorization for Donor Services to transfer decedents' bodies or body parts to third parties. In the few instances where families agreed to donation, Hess and Koch sold the remains of those decedents beyond what was authorized by the family, which was often limited to small tissue samples, tumors, or portions of skin, Hess and Koch also delivered cremains to families with the representation that the cremains were that of the deceased when, frequently, that was not the case."


Court documents alleged that Sunset Mesa charged $1,000 for its services, using "low rates as a way to ensure a steady supply of body parts to sell," according to The Daily Sentinel. When asked if this was the case, Hess answered simply, "yes."