Colorado Woman Who Ran Non-Profit Funeral Home Pleads Guilty to Harvesting, Marketing Human Body Parts

A Colorado woman who operated funeral homes for people with "no resources" has entered a guilty plea for selling the human body parts of "hundreds of victims," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado announced on Tuesday.

Megan Hess, 45, of Montrose, Colorado pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting, prosecutors said.

Hess Stole Body Parts from Victims, Sold Them for Profit

Between 2010 and 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 purchasing 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") — with the aforementioned goal of being able to "provide assistance to community members who have no resources for funeral/cremation services." Hess dissolved that entity "on or about May 4, 2009," the document continues, and "created a Trade Name for SMFF known as Donor Services."

Hess Operated the Body Broker Services From the Same Funeral Business

Megan Hess
Megan Hess posing in front of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, Colorado. Twitter

Donor Services' primary source of income was harvesting and marketing for sale purportedly donated 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 broker services").

At all times relevant to this indictment, HESS operated her body broker services business under the name Donor Services out of the same location as a funeral business operating under the name Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, Colorado.

Megan Hess
Megan Hess Twitter

"In particular, HESS met with families seeking funeral services from SMFD, discussed the disposition of the deceased, and made funeral arrangements. With regard to Donor Services, HESS handled most of the advertisement, invoicing, and shipping arrangements, and dealt directly with the end-users or purchasers of purportedly "donated" human remains," the indictment read.

Hess Even Shipped Out Bodies Infected with HIV After Faking Blood Reports

A co-defendant named Shirley Koch, Hess' mother, allegedly assisted with the transactions. Under the guise of cremation services, prosecutors say the duo "harvested body parts from, or otherwise prepared entire bodies of, hundreds of decedents for body broker services" despite "lacking any authorization whatsoever."

"In many instances, HESS and KOCH neither discussed nor obtained authorization for donation of decedents' bodies or body parts for body broker services," the DOJ alleged, again according to the indictment. "In other instances, the topic of donation was raised by HESS or KOCH, and specifically rejected by the families."

In some instances the recipients of the body parts asked for specimens that were free and clear of infectious diseases, such as HIV. The feds said that the duo falsified blood test results and shipped specimens that were infected while claiming they were not.

The defendants were charged with multiple counts each of (1) mail fraud/aiding and abetting and (2) transportation of hazardous materials/aiding and abetting.

As noted above, Hess entered a guilty plea to just one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting. A plea agreement and a so-called "statement by [the] defendant" memorialized many of the allegations above as admitted facts. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2023.