An FBI investigator unloads equipment at the Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors and Donor Services building Tuesday morning, February 6, 2018. (William Woody, Special to the Colorado Sun)

A woman who operated a funeral home in Montrose was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Tuesday for selling the body parts of scores of people whose families wanted them cremated.

Megan Hess, 46, pleaded guilty in July to mail fraud. Her mother, 69-year-old Shirly Koch, was sentenced to 15 years in prison Tuesday for mail fraud and aiding and abetting.

Hess and Koch operated Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose. They were indicted in March 2020 and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado said Hess and others “stole the bodies or body parts of hundreds of victims.”

Prosecutors said Hess and Koch would give families the cremains of another person, or sometimes multiple other people, purporting to be returning their loved ones’ ashes.

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Authorities said the scheme lasted from 2010 to about February 2018 and helped Hess and Koch earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Federal prosecutors said Hess and Koch would also “ship bodies and body parts that tested positive for, or belonging to people who had died from, infectious diseases, including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, after certifying to buyers that the remains were disease free.” The shipments would be through the mail or on commercial air flights, which authorities said violated Department of Transportation regulations on transportating hazardous materials.

“The defendants’ conduct was horrific and morbid and driven by greed,” U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan said in a written statement, “They took advantage of numerous victims who were at their lowest point given the recent loss of a loved one. We hope these prison sentences will bring the victim’s family members some amount of peace as they move forward in the grieving process. We sincerely hope this punishment deters like-minded fraudsters in the future.”

The Colorado Sun

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