Body brokers sentenced to prison


“This is the most emotionally draining case I have ever experienced on the bench,” U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello said during Tuesday’s (January 3, 2023) sentencing hearing in Grand Junction, Colorado.  That was the comment, according to this article from Reuters, by the presiding judge at the sentencing hearing of body parts brokers Megan Hess and her mother, Shirley Koch.


Hess and Koch had previously plead guilty to fraud.  Again, according to the Reuters article, “Hess committed crimes, prosecutors said, when she defrauded relatives of the deceased by lying about cremations and by dissecting bodies and selling them without permission. The surgical-training companies and other firms which bought the arms, legs, heads and torsos from Hess did not know they had been fraudulently obtained, prosecutors said.”


The article continued with this comment, “At her funeral home, Hess charged families up to $1,000 for cremations that never occurred, prosecutors said, and she offered others free cremations in exchange for a body donation.”


Hess and Koch operated the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, Colorado, until 2018 when the FBI raided the business.  The Reuters article states that Hess and Koch “dissected 560 corpses and sold the body parts without permission”.  Hess was sentenced to the maximum amount of 20 years in prison and Koch, who is 69 years of age, was sentenced to 15 years.


It is believed that this investigative report by Reuters entitled “The Body Trade” led authorities to the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home.


The case has led to the introduction of the Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act (CDRI Act) (S. 4929), known as the “Body Broker Bill” being introduced into the United States Senate last Fall.  Here is a press release on that action from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).


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