(Reuters) – A former Colorado funeral home owner was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on Tuesday for defrauding relatives of the dead by dissecting 560 corpses and selling body parts without permission.
Megan Hess, 46, pleaded guilty to fraud in July. She operated a funeral home, Sunset Mesa, and a body parts entity, Donor Services, from the same building in Montrose, Colorado. The 20-year term was the maximum allowed under law.
Her 69-year-old mother, Shirley Koch, also pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 15 years. Koch’s central role was chopping up the bodies, court records show.
“Hess and Koch used their funeral home at times to essentially steal bodies and body parts using fraudulent and forged donor forms,” prosecutor Tim Neff said in a court filing. “Hess and Koch’s conduct caused immense emotional pain for the families and next of kin.”
The federal case was triggered by a 2016-2018 Reuters investigative series about the sale of body parts in the United States, a virtually unregulated industry. Former workers told Reuters that Hess and Koch conducted unauthorized dismemberments of bodies, and a few weeks after a 2018 story was published, the FBI raided the business.
In their filing, prosecutors stressed the “macabre nature” of Hess’ scheme and described it as one of the most significant body parts cases in recent U.S. history.
“This is the most emotionally draining case I have ever experienced on the bench,” U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello said during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing in Grand Junction, Colorado …