A Colorado funeral home owner has pleaded guilty to mail fraud for illegally selling body parts and giving clients fake ashes.
Megan Hess, 45, and her mother Shirley Koch, were indicted in March 2020 on six counts of mail fraud and three counts of transporting hazardous material, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
The remaining charges against Hess will be dropped as part of the deal, the Grand Junction Sentinel reported.
A motion filed in federal court on June 22 said that Koch and prosecutors had reached a similar deal, the Denver Post said. Koch agreed not to request a prison sentence lower than 63 months, and prosecutors agreed not to request longer than 78 months. A judge has the final say. Koch has a change of plea hearing on July 12.
Hess and the prosecutors didn’t come to an agreement on sentencing. She faces up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced in January, the Sentinel said.
Court documents say Hess and Koch ran Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors as a nonprofit and sold hundreds of bodies between 2010 and 2018, even when a family wanted cremation. Family members received urns containing ashes that belonged to someone else.
Some of the bodies and body parts the pair sold belonged to people with infections diseases, which Koch and Hess withheld from buyers.
In court, Hess said that she “exceeded the scope of the consent, and I’m trying to make it right,” when asked to explain her crime.
“I’m taking responsibility,” Hess said. “I’m here to accept the plea. The families believe I went beyond the scope of the consent forms.”
Some family members said during the hearing that Hess was hedging on her admission of guilt, but they urged the court to accept it so everyone could move one.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Chaffin said Hess’s statements would be taken into consideration during sentencing.
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