Filed Jan. 11, 2018, 3 p.m. GMT


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household BUSINESS: Megan Hess has defined Donor solutions as a small, family members business. In 2016, she claimed she and her mother, Shirley Koch, handled about 10 cadavers a month in the earlier room. Her father, Alan Koch, ran the crematory, she said. priziv.org/Mike hardwood

MONTROSE, Colorado – The commonwealth Bureau of examination is interviewing former employees that a funeral home whose owner runs a side organization on the exact same premises selling human being body parts.

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An agent through the FBI has actually interviewed at least four former employees who operated for funeral director and body broker Megan Hess, search information about how she operates her businesses, the previous workers called priziv.org.

The commonwealth inquiry began several months ago, shortly after priziv.org interviewed a half-dozen workers who previously worked because that Hess.

One ex-employee, Kari Escher, stated she was especially troubled by the practices of Hess’s mother, Shirley Koch, who works at the facility. Escher said Koch, that embalmed and also dismembered bodies, pulled this from some of the corpses come extract the gold in crowns or fillings.


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“She proved me her collection of gold teeth one day,” said Escher, that helped manage a former cremation-marketing company owned by Hess.

Koch said “she had actually sold a various batch a year prior, and also they took the entirety family to Disneyland in California top top the gold the they cashed in,” Escher said.

Reached by phone at Sunset Mesa, Koch claimed she did not wish come talk with a priziv.org reporter. “I’m not interested. Give thanks to you,” she said prior to ending the call.

The news agency had likewise sent written inquiries to Hess and her attorney around Koch’s alleged handling of yellow teeth. Neither addressed the issue around the teeth.

No federal regulation prohibits the buying and also selling of person body components to be used in research and also education.

In Colorado and most various other states, it also is legal because that funeral homes to market items recovered from dead bodies, such as gold dentist work. And it is not versus the law to operate a so-called body broker firm from the same facility that residences a funeral home and also crematory.

But the business arrangement is extremely unusual. priziv.org can find no various other operation active in the United says that homes a funeral home, crematory and body broker in the exact same facility and under the exact same ownership.

Such multipurpose operations raise ethical concerns, number of funeral industry veterans said. A funeral director who also works together a human body broker could have a financial motivation to offer a body because that its valuable parts fairly than administer an inexpensive burial, because that instance.

“The dispute of interest of having a side service in body parts simply leads come problems,” said Steve Palmer, a funeral manager in Cottonwood, Arizona, and also former member the the policy board in ~ the nationwide Funeral directors Association. “There space no principles there once you carry out that. You space not looking in ~ the complete disposition (of a body). You space looking at exactly how to do money.”


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yellow TEETH: former employee Kari Escher said she was specifically troubled by the methods of Megan Hess’s mother, Shirley Koch, who Escher said pulled this from several of the corpses so she might sell the yellow in crowns or fillings. priziv.org/Rick Wilking

Hess runs Sunset Mesa, a funeral home, and also Donor Services, a body broker operation from the same building in Montrose. Some former staff members of Sunset Mesa claimed they never ever heard Hess disclose come donors the the bodies would certainly be offered for profit.

“The truth that currently the service is also making money indigenous the revenue of body parts – if the is not being told come the family, it is unethical and also probably illegal, if just as deception,” claimed Robert Fells, general counsel that the international Cemetery, Cremation and also Funeral Association, an industry trade group. Fells referred to as running such a multifaceted procedure “a brand-new frontier.”

Through the attorney, Hess decreased to comment for this story and didn’t deal with questions around the FBI probe, her business practices, and also the allegations by former employees. The attorney, Carol Viner, request priziv.org come “refrain from contacting” Hess employees “for any reason.”

The focus and extent the the federal probe right into the Hess procedure is unclear, and the FBI additionally declined to comment.

Separate native the FBI inquiry, priziv.org has learned that Colorado state funeral regulators room investigating Hess’s funeral home, Sunset Mesa. The state’s department of regulation Agencies claimed it has actually nine open complaints around Sunset Mesa – “higher 보다 average” for funeral homes in the state, claimed spokesman Lee Rasizer. He would certainly not discuss the nature of those complaints or any activity it might be taking.

priziv.org began examining the Hess companies much more than a year back as part of the news agency’s exploration of the person body trade, a basically unregulated sector that mainly operates in the shadows.

“ADD come CART”

Before referring concerns to a lawyer, Hess spoke generally with priziv.org around her human body broker company. In one interview in 2016, she described Donor services as a small, family members business. She took orders because that body parts via Hotmail, email documents show. She stated she and her mother, Koch, handled about 10 cadavers a month in the back room. Her father, Alan Koch, ran the crematory, Hess said.

Hess do donating a body virtual easy. On she cremation marketing website, a donor could simply choose from a drop-down menu, fill out a few forms, click “Add to Cart,” and enter a credit card number. She funeral residence site listed her credentials, including a doctor in mortuary science.

After a reporter request questions about the website and she background, Hess gotten rid of the “Add to Cart” donation pages from her cremation website and also cut the point out of the mortuary science level from her online biography. No such degree exists in the United claims for morticians, veteran funeral director say. She revised virtual biography cited her high school degree and “a love of vet medicine.”


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mystery DEGREE: The website because that Megan Hess’s funeral house once provided her credentials as consisting of a doctor in mortuary science. ~ a reporter asked around her background, Hess gotten rid of the cite of the mortuary science level from her digital biography. No such level exists in the United states for morticians, veteran funeral directors say. priziv.org/Mike wood

When priziv.org checked out her basic in 2016, Hess said Donor solutions represented just 15 percent or for this reason of her total business. But it provided an essential public service, she said.

“It’s because that the good of the world, and I like to aid people,” Hess said.

Body brokers prefer Donor services are additionally known as non-transplant organization banks. Castle are distinct from the organ and tissue transplant industry, i beg your pardon the U.S. Government carefully regulates. Carriers of transplant tissue must attain federal recognition and also operate as charities. The is illegal to buy or market organs such as hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplant.

But no federal legislation governs the revenue of cadavers or body components for use in research or education. Few state laws carry out any oversight. That way almost anyone, regardless of expertise, have the right to dissect and sell human being remains.

priziv.org determined 34 body brokers that have actually been active throughout the united States during the past five years. Twenty-five the the brokers were for-profit corporations. The other nine were structured together nonprofits, consisting of Donor solutions – the only broker priziv.org might find the still doubles as a funeral home.

Colorado go not manage body brokers. It is likewise the just state the doesn’t patent funeral directors. Funeral houses are required to register with the state, however spokesman Rasizer stated the regulation affairs department is no authorized to check mortuaries. It just investigates a funeral house if a complaint is filed, the said.

At Sunset Mesa, Hess charged $1,995 for a an easy burial and also $695 because that a simple cremation, according to price list reviewed by priziv.org. Extra charges room assessed if a human body is embalmed or a funeral director is involved.

At Donor Services, she body parts business, Hess have the right to generate a better return ~ above the dead, a different price perform reviewed by priziv.org showed.


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dual DUTY: Megan Hess operates both a funeral home, Sunset Mesa, and also a human body broker business, Donor Services. priziv.org might find no other active operation in the United states that houses those enterprise in the same facility and also under the same ownership. priziv.org/Rick Wilking

“The problem of interest of having actually a side service in human body parts simply leads to problems. There are no ethics there as soon as you perform that.”

Steve Palmer, funeral director and also former member that the policy board in ~ the national Funeral director Association.

Most brokers who offer body parts offer come cremate part of the donor’s body for free. Hess, however, charged families to donate your bodies – $195, to add $300 an ext if family members want cremated remains returned. The fees defray the price of choose up the deceased, she claimed in the 2016 interview.

There is even much more money to it is in made in dissecting those bodies and also selling the parts. A price quote Hess sent out to an Arizona medical training laboratory in 2016 offered torsos for $1,000 each. A pelvis with upper legs went because that $1,200, heads for $500, a knee because that $250, and a foot for $125, according to a 2013 Donor solutions price list reviewed through priziv.org.

None that the former employees or associates priziv.org interviewed worked straight for the human body broker business. They to be affiliated through her funeral business. Yet two claimed Hess occasionally bragged about how financially rewarding it to be to market bodies and body parts.


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“She discussed on number of occasions about how much money she would be obtaining per month, which blew my mind,” stated Jennifer Henderson, a former floral designer because that Sunset Mesa. “She said that one month she got about $40,000” from offering donated bodies.

priziv.org might not independently verify this figure.

“HERE’S LOOKING in ~ YOU”

One the Hess’s donors to be Rex Dunlap, a frugal Coloradan battling mind cancer. Before he died in 2016, the 78-year-old retired contractor conserved $200 ~ above cremation by agreeing to pledge parts of his body to Donor Services. Rather of payment the traditional $695 cremation fee to Colorado Cremation, Hess’s previous cremation marketing business, Dunlap payment Hess $495 to take it his body.

Dunlap left one details instruction: The glass eye the he’d worn because a childhood accident must be removed and sent come his ideal friend. The friend would then ar the glass eye in one urn containing half of Dunlap’s ashes and also bury the urn atop the tomb of Dunlap’s dad in Telluride, Colorado. Along with it would be a keep in mind reading: “Here’s looking in ~ you.” The remainder of his ashes would be hidden with Dunlap’s mommy in Denver.

The arrangement went awry.

Meme Eberspacher, Dunlap’s niece, to be at his bedside the night that Dunlap died. She states Shirley Koch concerned pick increase his body. In ~ the education home, Eberspacher said she reminded Koch that the glass eye was an alleged to it is in returned and suggested it it is in popped the end there.

“She said, ‘No, no, fine take treatment of that very first thing in the morning,’” recalled Eberspacher.

The eye was never returned, said Eberspacher and Dunlap’s friend, Ron Mabry.


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“WASN’T RIGHT”: After friend Rex Dunlap died, Ron Mabry stated he never ever knew the Dunlap’s donated body would be sold. He additionally expected Dunlap’s glass eye to be returned, together requested. Instead of the eye, he said, Hess sent him a check: $500, a refund of the money Dunlap had paid to it is in cremated, add to $5. priziv.org/Rick Wilking

When Mabry and Eberspacher checked out Sunset Mesa the morning after ~ Dunlap died, Hess and also Koch claimed they could not locate the eye, Eberspacher said.

Though Koch dissected bodies in the ago room in ~ Sunset Mesa, “they claimed that the body had to be sent for harvesting,” Eberspacher said.

Mabry said Koch told the the glass eye can not be eliminated after Dunlap’s head was severed, embalmed and shipped to researchers.

Weeks passed before Hess said him that Donor solutions couldn’t retrieve the glass eye because the agency couldn’t find the researcher who obtained Dunlap’s head, Mabry said. Why Donor services was unable to trace Dunlap’s head remains unclear.

“I called them it didn’t make sense,” Mabry said. “I just had the impression that something wasn’t right all along.” He said neither Hess no one Koch told him that his friend’s body components would it is in sold.

After Mabry endangered to sue Hess for shedding the eye, he claimed Hess wrote him a check: $500, a refund that the money Dunlap had paid to donate – plus $5.

“BE A HERO”

Body brokers sometimes industry their services using language that might mislead prospective donors into believing the broker handles body organ donations.


QUESTIONABLE ADVERTISING:A Donor Services magazine givento priziv.org in 2016 to be criticizedas deceptive by two major U.S.Organ donation groups after thenews agency shared it through them.priziv.org/Handout

Donor Services has actually circulated a brochure that reads: “Be a hero. It is in an body organ donor,” a slogan often used by body organ transplant advocates. The earlier of the magazine featured the logo Donate Life, the national brand that promotes body organ donation and also is managed by Donate Life America, a non-profit group.

The brochure, provided to priziv.org by Hess during the 2016 interview, continued this way: “Every year, organ, eye and also tissue transplants provide hope to 10s of thousands of civilization suffering native disease, injury, trauma or blindness. … Thousands much more patients could advantage from life saving and healing eye and tissue donations.”

The Donor Services catalog was criticized together deceptive through two major U.S. Organ donation groups after priziv.org mutual it v them.

A spokeswoman for Donate Life America claimed in an e-mail that Hess’s certain “is no a federally designated body organ procurement organization” and also has no permission to use the Donate Life brand.

In Colorado, the state’s body organ donation program, Donor Alliance, said Hess’s marketing language “could be confusing come people.”

“We did not carry out our messaging to be repurposed in this brochure, and also are following up,” stated spokeswoman Erin Dolin.

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After contacting Hess in December around the content of the brochure, Dolin claimed Hess told the body organ transplant team that “the brochure in concern was old and has not been supplied for some time.”

Hess proceeds running a dual operation. In mid-November, she wrote an e-mail to a operation training firm saying the she could supply a person torso, follow to messages reviewed by priziv.org.

“Torsos are a famous specimen this days,” she wrote. “Thank friend for thinking of me.”