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FBI Investigates Funeral Home Running “Remains Dealing” Side-Business

January 15, 2018
Justin Crowe

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FBI Investigates Funeral Home Running “Remains Dealing” Side-Business

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is checking into Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose, CO, where owner Megan Hess is running a body-dealing side business. Reauters repots that at least four former employees of Sunset Mesa Funeral Home have been interviewed in order for the Bureau to better understand how the business operates.

REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Megan Hess has described Donor Services as a small, family business. In 2016, she said she and her mother, Shirley Koch, handled about 10 cadavers a month in the back room. Her father, Alan Koch, ran the crematory, she said. REUTERS/Mike Wood

The funeral home and body brokering business went under federal inquiry after Reuters interviewed a half-dozen former Sunset Mesa Funeral Home employees who formerly worked for Hess.

One former employee, Kari Escher, who helped manage a former cremation-marketing business owned by Hess, said she found the practices of Hess’s mother, Shirley Koch, particularly concerning.

Escher told Reuters, “She showed me her collection of gold teeth one day… he had sold a different batch a year prior, and they took the whole family to Disneyland in California on the gold that they cashed in.”

It is legal in Colorado and in nearly every U.S. state to buy and sell human remains for research and education purposes. Connecting Directors interviewed a bone dealer last year to better understand how that industry works.  It is also legal for funeral homes to sell items recovered from dead bodies, including gold dental work. Additionally, it is legal to run a body brokering business from the same location as a funeral home or crematory.

REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Former employee Kari Escher said she was especially troubled by the practices of Megan Hess’s mother, Shirley Koch, who Escher said pulled teeth from some of the corpses so she could sell the gold in crowns or fillings. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

With all of the practices and businesses being legal, the investigation appears to be down to a question of ethics when operating them together.

Steve Palmer, a funeral director in Cottonwood, Arizona, and former member of the policy board at the National Funeral Directors Association, told Reuters, “The conflict of interest of having a side business in body parts just leads to problems. There are no ethics there when you do that. You are not looking at the full disposition [of a body]. You are looking at how to make money.”

Reuters also obtained other material related to the body dealing including a 2016 quote mailed to an Arizona medical training lab showing Hess peddling the torsos for $1,000 each. A 2013 Donor Services price list reviewed by Reuters lists a pelvis with upper legs at $1,200, heads for $500, a knee for $250, and a foot for $125.

Currently there is both an FBI probe and a Colorado state federal regulators investigation into Megan Hess’ businesses. Lee Rasizer, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies says it has nine open complaints about the home — higher than average for funeral homes in Colorado.

Koch said she was “not interested” when contacted for comment by a Reuters Reporter.

This story was originally published by Reuters and you can read more here.

REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Megan Hess operates both a funeral home, Sunset Mesa, and a body broker business, Donor Services. Reuters could find no other active operation in the United States that houses those businesses in the same facility and under the same ownership. REUTERS/Rick Wilking