A Colorado funeral home operator accused of illegally selling body parts and giving families fake ashes has pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and aiding and abetting, RadarOnline.com has learned.
Megan Hess, 45, from Montrose faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison after entering the plea Tuesday in Grand Junction.
According to the plea agreement, Hess "devised and executed a scheme to steal the bodies or body parts of hundreds of victims, and then sold those remains to victims purchasing the remains for scientific, medical, or educational purposes."
Due to her plea, five more counts of mail fraud and three counts of transporting hazardous material will be dropped, according to The Daily Sentinel.
Hess, 45, and her mother, Shirley Koch, operated the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose.
They were both arrested in 2020 and charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials for their sketchy body broker services which spanned from about 2010 to sometime in 2018.
"I exceeded the scope of the consent and I'm trying to make an effort to make it right," Hess said.
The mother-daughter duo sometimes obtained consent from families to donate small tissue samples or tumors of their dead relatives, as stated in an indictment, which noted they had been specifically denied to do anything else.
Hess and Koch frequently "exceeded the authorization they obtained," prosecutors argued.
Per the docs, the two also shipped bodies and body parts that tested positive for, or belonged to people who died from infectious diseases, despite certifying to buyers that the remains were disease-free.
Authorities said that some families typically paid $1,000 or more for a cremation that "never occurred."
"Remains would be sold for purposes not contemplated by the families; and body parts beyond those which were authorized, if not entire bodies, would be sold," according to court docs obtained by RadarOnline.com.
"In each of these instances, the families would not have authorized donation had they been informed of what would actually be done with their loved ones' remains."
Sentencing for Hess will be set at a later date.
RadarOnline.com has learned that a change of plea hearing for Koch is now set for July 12 at 1:30 PM. She previously pleaded not guilty.