A Montrose, Colorado, woman and her daughter were arrested after police said they illegally sold human bodies and body parts from their funeral home.
Megan Hess, 43, and her mother Shirley Koch, 66, were the owners of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors. They were indicted on charges of obtaining and selling body parts, including legs, heads, and a spine from their funeral home, The Denver Post reported. Some of the body parts had infectious diseases, and some were mailed across the world.
U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said Hess and Koch allegedly sold body parts and gave the incomplete cremated remains to surviving family members from 2010 to 2018, The Denver Post reported. Their scheme brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the outlet.
Hess and Koch were charged with with mail fraud and illegal transportation of hazardous materials and appeared in court on Tuesday, according to Colorado Public Radio. They pleaded not guilty and are reportedly out on bail, according to the station.
“The defendants are charged with committing a blatant fraud on many, many victims. This betrays a fundamental trust during one of the worst times in a person’s life — having to make arrangements for a deceased loved one,” Dunn said in a statement, according to Colorado Public Radio. “It is hard to imagine the pain and worry of those who used Sunset Mesa and not knowing what happened to their loved ones’ remains.”
Police said Hess and Koch allegedly offeredfamilies their cremation services and charged $1,000 or more, but the cremations often never occurred, according to KJCT8.
They allegedly didn’t get permission to sell the bodies or body parts to third parties “in at least a dozen instances,” the outlet reported.
The operation included “a funeral home, body broker business and crematorium in the same place,” The Denver Post reported. It wasn’t illegal at the time to sell human body parts to medical researchers for profit, the outlet reported.
Hess allegedly gave one family concrete instead of cremated remains and embalmed another’s body without the permission of the family, according to The Denver Post.