Undertaker facing jail for selling corpses and giving families fake ashes

An American undertaker sold dead bodies for cash and then lied to grieving families about their loved ones having been cremated.

Colorado's Megan Hess would hand over urns filled with fake ashes to hide her shameful scam, even giving one mourner concrete mix in place of their relative's remains.

The 45-year-old, who previously denied all the charges levelled against her, finally admitted the shocking truth as she entered a guilty plea in court earlier this week.

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An FBI investigation found that Hess forged dozens of body-donor consent forms at her Sunset Mesa funeral home in the town of Montrose, before selling various heads, arms, spines and legs to medical research and – most ghoulishly of all – extracting and selling the gold teeth of some of the deceased.

Hess, who stands accused of body harvesting from 2010 to 2018 alongside her mother Shirley Koch, is also believed to have used the thousands of dollars she made to fund a trip to Walt Disney World.

Charging $1,000 (£8,400) per cremation, she also preyed on poorer families by offering them her services for free, only to then dispose of the cadavers for her own gain.

Asked by the judge to describe in her own words the crimes she committed, Hess had initially called her situation a 'legal travesty', but later agreed with the prosecution that she'd defrauded her victims.

"Meeting with hospice on the 4th… opening the floodgates of donors," she allegedly wrote in a message to a potential body-part buyer in 2014.

"'They have four or five deaths a day. Get ready! How about a deal on full embalmed spines… $950?"

Mother and daughter are also accused of shipping the bodies of those who'd tested positive for, or died from, conditions such as Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, all the while telling buyers that the remains were disease-free.

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Bizarrely though, while it is illegal to sell organs such as hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplant in the USA, the sale of cadavers and body parts for use in research or education is not regulated by federal law.

Prior to her recent guilty pleas Hess had been due to stand trial in the coming weeks, while Koch – who also previously pleaded not guilty – is due to attend a change-of-plea hearing on July 12.

Hess potentially faces being sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.


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