A Colorado woman linked to a nonprofit funeral home for the stated purpose of helping underprivileged people pay for funeral services has pleaded guilty to selling the human body parts of ‘hundreds of victims’, the bureau said. of the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado. Tuesday.
Megan Hesse, 45, of Montrose, Colorado, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting, prosecutors said. “According to the plea agreement, beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2018, Hess devised and executed a scheme to steal the bodies or body parts of hundreds of victims and then sold those remains to victims buying the remains. for scientific, medical or educational purposes,” they added.
The plea deal avoids a three-week trial that was scheduled to begin on July 25, according to court records.
An indictment filed March 12, 2020 says Hess formed a corporation – Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation, Inc. (“SMFF”) – for the aforementioned purpose of being able to “provide assistance to members of the community who have no no resources for funeral/cremation services. “Hess dissolved this entity “on or about May 4, 2009,” the document continues, and “created a business name for SMFF known as Donor Services.”
Federal authorities then alleged what the change consisted of:
Donor Services’ main source of income was the harvesting and marketing for the sale of so-called donations of human remains, such as heads, torsos, arms, legs, or entire human bodies, to customers. who used the remains for scientific, medical or educational purposes (hereinafter referred to as “body brokerage services”). At all times relevant to this indictment, HESS operated its body brokerage services business as Donor Services from the same location as a funeral business operating as Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, Colorado.
In September 2011, Hess reportedly brought the name “Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors” (“SMFD”) into the corporate fold. “From that date until February 6, 2018, HESS owned and operated a funeral home providing burial and cremation services under the name SMFD,” prosecutors said.
The Feds continued:
In particular, HESS met with families requesting funeral services from SMFD, discussed the disposition of the deceased, and made funeral arrangements. With respect to donor services, HESS handled most advertising, billing, and shipping arrangements, and dealt directly with end users or purchasers of allegedly “donated” human remains.
A co-accused named Shirley Koch would have participated in the transactions. A plea hearing change has been scheduled in his concurrent criminal case for July 12.
Under the guise of cremation services, prosecutors say the duo “recovered body parts or otherwise prepared entire bodies of hundreds of deceased individuals for body brokerage services” despite “the absence of any authorization”.
“In many instances, HESS and KOCH did not discuss or obtain approval for the donation of bodies or body parts of deceased persons for body brokerage services,” the DOJ alleged, again according to the report. indictment. “In other cases, the subject of donation was raised by HESS or KOCH, and specifically rejected by the families.”
Some families agreed, the document points out, but many of those agreements provided “that only small samples, such as tumors or portions of skin, would be taken for testing or research,” the DOJ alleged.
The Feds continued:
Other families believed, based on depictions of HESS or KOCH, that donated remains would be used to treat living recipients. Still others only allowed donation of specific body parts, such as specific organs, but specifically denied donation for anything else. Frequently, in such circumstances, HESS and KOCH exceeded the clearance they had obtained. The remains would be sold for purposes not intended by the families; and body parts beyond those permitted, if not entire bodies, would be sold. In each of these cases, the families would not have authorized the donation if they had been informed of what would be done with the remains of their loved one.
Although the feds alleged the duo’s scheme allowed their funeral home to be the lowest-cost provider in the area, in some cases families were billed “generally $1,000 or more” for cremations that never took place. Instead, the DOJ said, the bodies were completely dumped in the underground corpse operation the two defendants were conducting. The two defendants were accused of using other people’s ashes to give to families who paid for services that were never actually performed to cover up the illicit body-shopping scheme.
In some cases, recipients of body parts have requested samples that are free of infectious diseases, such as HIV. The feds said the duo falsified blood test results and shipped infected samples while claiming they weren’t.
The defendants were charged with multiple counts each of (1) mail fraud/aiding and abetting and (2) transporting dangerous goods/aiding and abetting.
As noted above, Hess pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting. A plea agreement and a so-called “declaration of [the] respondent” recorded many of the above allegations as admitted facts. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 3, 2023.
A U.S. magistrate has recommended that a federal judge accept the plea deal reached on Tuesday.
Some of the victims’ families spoke to KMGH-TV in Denver in 2019. That report is here:
Part of the file is below.
Got a tip we should know? [email protected]