Kansas man sentenced to federal prison for performing fake autopsies

TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas man, who had already been banned from doing business in the state for performing illegal autopsies, has been sentenced to prison for wire fraud in connection with the autopsies.

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Shawn Parcells pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in May 2022 after accepting $5,000 from a client for an autopsy he was not licensed to perform, the Department of Justice said in a news release. The autopsy report provided to the client included an opinion within “a certain degree of medical certainty as a Forensic, Neuro, and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Fellow,” despite no pathologist participating in the exam or report, according to the DOJ.

Parcells was sentenced to 69 months in prison, which is more than five years.

As part of a plea deal Parcells reached with prosecutors, nine other wire fraud charges were dropped, The Associated Press reported.

In August, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Parcells’ permanent ban from doing business in the state, as we reported at the time. A Kansas judge ordered him to pay more than $700,000 in fines and restitution.

“It’s troubling whenever criminals deceptively present themselves as professionals to commit fraud on unwitting victims, but the fact that Parcells’ schemes were predicated upon exploiting the grief and bereavement of others, makes his act a particularly predatory crime,” U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard said in a statement.

Parcells was accused of using false credentials to perform autopsies multiple times, but was the subject of national attention after performing an autopsy commissioned by the family of Michael Brown, the Black man killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, CNN reported.

In 2014, Parcells told CNN that he sometimes performed autopsies without a physician present, and insisted it was legal as long as a doctor signed off on the report and he was under the doctor’s supervision.

Prosecutors told the AP that as part of their investigation, they found Parcells had collected more than 1,600 samples as part of his scheme. Those samples are in the custody of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and victims have until Oct. 6 to claim them.