According to allegations raised in a growing number of recently filed lawsuits, a Colorado funeral home “harvested” organs from recently departed individuals, and sold the stolen body parts without the permission or knowledge of family members.
Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, of Montrose, faces at least three lawsuits brought by families who allege Megan Hess and her employees committed fraud, by stealing organs from bodies without permission. The lawsuits were filed in Montrose District Court in Colorado.
The complaints claim that Hess gave family fake ashes, including dry concrete or other people’s remains, to cover up the sale of their deceased family members organs and body parts. In one of the most recent lawsuits, filed Friday by Terry Thorsby, the funeral home sold the her mother’s head and other limbs without their permission.
Thorsby’s lawsuit indicates that the family was unaware of what had occurred until they were contacted by the FBI, which alerted them that they had been scammed and that the funeral home and Hess were under investigation. The FBI told Thorsby that Sunset Mesa sold the head of her mother, Mildred Carl, who died in July 2014, to one company, and her pelvis, both arms, right lower leg, and left knee to other companies.
The FBI confirmed the investigation in February 2018 after raiding Sunset Mesa.
The affected families say that that Sunset Mesa bills itself as a cremation service to other funeral companies, and that families who agree to utilize its services are not told that it’s a low-cost cremation service in exchange for organ and body part donations.
The parts are then sold to Donor Services, which is also owned by Hess, which then sells the organs and parts to others. In return, the families are given ashes that are not their relatives, and in some cases ashes have turned out to be dry concrete.
The status of the FBI investigation is unknown, as the bureau does not comment on investigations underway.
A support group established by victims of the alleged fraud indicate that hundreds of families may be affected. The FBI is asking families who believe they may have been affected to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be directed to an online questionnaire.