Body brokers arrested for illegally selling body parts

The FBI has been investigating the owner of a now-closed Colorado funeral home since 2017.


Connie Hanson displays a book she compiled about her late son. The ashes she received that were supposedly her son's were full of trash like wires and battery casings. His was one of many bodies allegedly sold to body brokers without consent by Sunset Mesa Crematorium in Montrose, Colorado.
Luna Anna Archey/High Country News

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In October 2017, the FBI began investigating Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, a funeral home in Montrose, Colorado, for illegally selling deceased bodies. “Body brokering,” as it’s called, is a shady industry that supplies cadavers to a range of industries, including university labs and the military. FBI agents and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies discovered that Sunset Mesa owner Megan Hess and her mother, Shirley Koch, were disposing of bodies without the required permits. The funeral home was shut down (“‘None of this happened the way you think it did,’” 6/10/19).

In March, Hess and Koch were arrested for illegally selling body parts. The women met with bereaved families and charged them $1,000 or more to cremate the body, according to a recently unsealed grand jury indictment. They often transferred bodies to third parties against the family’s wishes and even shipped corpses that tested positive for infectious diseases, violating Department of Transportation regulations. Both were charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials and face up to 135 years in federal prison.

Helen Santoro is an editorial fellow at High Country News. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

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