GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Federal authorities arrested the operators of a Colorado funeral home accused of selling body parts or entire bodies without the consent of families.
Megan Hess, 43, and her mother, 66-year-old Shirley Koch, were arrested Tuesday and charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials, The Daily Sentinel reports.
Hess and Koch appeared in court in Grand Junction and entered not guilty pleas, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
They were represented by the Office of the Federal Public Defender, which does not comment on cases.
The women operated the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose.
A grand jury indictment said that from 2010 through 2018, Hess and Koch purported to provide burial and cremation services, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
The women offered to cremate bodies and provide the remains to families at a cost of $1,000 or more, authorities said, but many of the cremations never occurred.
Hess created a nonprofit organization in 2009 called Sunset Mesa Funeral Foundation as a body-broker service doing business as Donor Services, authorities said.
“In at least dozens of instances, Hess and Koch did not follow family wishes, and neither discussed nor obtained authorization for Donor Services to transfer decedents’ bodies or body parts to third parties,” the justice department said.
Hess and Koch shipped bodies and body parts that tested positive for, or belonged to people who died from, infectious diseases including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, after certifying to buyers the remains were disease-free, authorities said.