Funeral Home Operators Illegally Sold Dead Bodies, Gave Families Wrong Ashes After Cremations: DOJ

A mother-daughter pair of funeral home operators were indicted March 12 in the U.S. District of Colorado in grotesque alleged fraud plot. Megan Hess, 43, and Shirley Koch, 66, ran Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors from 2010 to 2018, and took advantage of people at their most vulnerable, according to The Department of Justice.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn in a statement. “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.”

Prosecutors say that Hess started the nonprofit Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation (doing business as “Donor Services”), and ran it from the same location as the funeral home. This was a body broker service. You see where this is going. In at least a dozen times, Hess and Koch allegedly transferred body parts, or corpses without a family’s permission. Even when they did get permission to donate body parts, the mother-daughter defendants allegedly gave more than was authorized by family members.

They would also allegedly fail to do many cremations (which cost at least $1,000), prosecutors said. Then there’s this, per the DOJ: “Hess and Koch also delivered cremains to families with the representation that the cremains were that of the deceased when, frequently, that was not the case.”

Law&Crime reached out for comment, but Koch’s attorney Stephen L. Laiche told us he was not authorized to speak. An attorney of record for Hess did not immediately return a Law&Crime request for comment. Online records show that the defendants are currently fighting charges. They pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to all charges of mail fraud, and transportation of hazardous materials.

These charges have been a long time coming. The state shut down Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in March 2018 after the body-selling allegations emerged.

[Screengrab featuring former site of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors via Denver7]

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