A mother and daughter who ran a Colorado funeral home were arrested on federal charges Tuesday for allegedly selling body parts — often without or against the families’ approval.
Megan Hess, 43, and Shirley Koch, 66, owners of the since-closed Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, were indicted on charges of mail fraud and illegal transportation of hazardous materials. Federal officials said some of the remains the pair sold belonged to individuals with infectious diseases — violating Department of Transportation requirements regarding the transport of hazardous materials, according to Colorado Public Radio.
Officials said they believe the funeral owners’ crimes began in 2010 and continued for at least a decade. Their investigation reportedly located dozens of victims and uncovered that the alleged operation made the pair hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Citing the recent indictment, the Montrose Daily Press reported that Hess and Koch are accused of taking money for cremation services they never completed and selling body parts without families’ permission. In cases where the family sanctioned donations, the pair allegedly sold remains outside of what the family authorized — which was typically only tissue samples, tumors, or sections of skin.
Federal prosecutors alleged the funeral owners also gave relatives cremains that did not belong to their loved ones. In some cases, the families reportedly received cement.
Koch and Hess are also accused of fraudulently claiming that infected body parts were disease-free — resulting in the hazardous remains being transported via mail or commercial flights, according to the news outlet.
The funeral home directors have faced at least six civil lawsuits in recent years. One of the people who has sued them is Bobby Espinoza, who told Westworld in 2018 that his late father was dismembered and sold for parts. Espinoza alleged that his father’s legs and head were removed and his torso and pelvis were severed before his body was sold to three different buyers.
According to Colorado Public Radio, officials said Hess and Koch also defrauded the organizations that bought the body parts from them.
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