Undertaker admits selling corpses for cash while telling relatives they'd been cremated - The Mirror

Summary

Megan Hess, the owner of a funeral home in Colorado, US, has admitted to swiping dead bodies to resell their harvested heads, spines, arms and legs to surgical training companies

An undertaker has pleaded guilty to swindling the relatives of the dead by flogging their loved ones' harvested body parts despite telling them they'd been cremated.

Megan Hess, the owner of a funeral home in Colorado, US, has admitted to swiping dead bodies to resell their harvested heads, spines, arms and legs to surgical training companies

An undertaker has pleaded guilty to swindling the relatives of the dead by flogging their loved ones' harvested body parts despite telling them they'd been cremated.

Megan Hess owned the now-closed Sunset Mesa funeral home in Colorado, US, and another business called Donor Services through which she sold the heads, spines, arms and legs.

She entered the guilty plea to a charge of fraud at a Colorado Magistrates court yesterday and will be sentenced in January.

The prosecution are pushing for her to spend 12 to 15 years in prison.

Hess, 45, admitted on Tuesday that through her funeral home she defrauded at least a dozen families seeking cremation services for deceased relatives.

Instead of cremating the bodies, court records show, her body broker company harvested their parts then sold them, mostly for surgical training and other educational purposes.

Hess had been scheduled to go on trial in three weeks along with her mother, Shirley Koch, who also previously pleaded not

guilty.

Koch's change-of-plea hearing is set for July 12.

After Assistant US Attorney Jeremy Chaffin made his sentencing recommendation, the lawyer for Hess, Dan Shaffer, urged a lighter sentence of about two years in prison.

Hess has been free on bond since her arrest.

During the hearing, the judge asked Hess to describe in her own words the crimes she committed - she initially called the whole affair a "legal travesty".

When prodded by the judge, Hess agreed with the prosecution that she defrauded her victims, though she declined to go into detail.

Image: Denver Post via Getty Images) Denver Post via Getty Images)

Two family members and one friend of deceased people whose body parts were sold without permission by Hess spoke at the

hearing.

They told the judge that while they were still emotionally reeling from the episode and wanted to learn more details about what occurred, they welcomed the news that Hess had decided to plead guilty.

To increase sales, Hess targeted poor and vulnerable families as they grappled with a relative's final days, according to government court filings.

"Meeting with hospice on the 4th... opening the floodgates of donors," Hess wrote to a prospective body-part buyer in 2014.

"They have four or five deaths a day. Get ready!!!! How about a deal on full embalmed spines... $950 (£800)?"

Selling organs such as hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplant is illegal in the United States.

But the sale of cadavers and body parts for use in research or education, which is what Hess did, is not regulated by federal law.

Image: Denver Post via Getty Images) Denver Post via Getty Images)

Few state laws provide any regulation, and almost anyone, regardless of expertise, can dissect and sell human body parts.

After a 2018 investigation, Colorado's legislature strengthened the state's oversight.

Hess charged families up to $1,000 (£840) for cremations that never occurred, prosecutors said, and she also offered others a free

cremation in exchange for a body donation.

Many families received ashes from bins mixed with the remains of different cadavers, authorities said, and one client received concrete mix instead of a relative's ashes.

FBI agents found that Hess forged dozens of body-donor consent forms.

In court documents, a former employee accused Hess of earning $40,000 (£34,000) by extracting and selling the gold teeth of some of the deceased.

Undertaker admits selling corpses for cash while telling relatives they'd been cremated - The Mirror
Photo Credit: The Mirror

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