TOPEKA – A former private coroner in Kansas was sentenced Monday to serve five years, nine months in prison on a federal conviction for wire fraud.
Shawn Parcells, 42, who operated Topeka-based National Autopsy Services, falsely led his clients in the cases involved to think they would receive an autopsy report from a pathologist, though he lacked the necessary medical credentials, the indictment said.
In most of those cases, it said, there was no pathologist involved. Parcells wasn’t a certified physician or pathologist.
Parcells used his autopsy business to collect roughly $1.16 million in fees from more than 350 clients, the U.S. attorney’s office said, citing court documents.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree also ordered Parcells to pay restitution totaling $64,056.85, the sentencing report in the case said.
The FBI and the Office of the Kansas Attorney General investigated the case.
“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,” Duston Slinkard, U.S. attorney for Kansas said.
Parcells defrauded people who were at their most vulnerable while grieving the loss of a loved one, said Charles Dayoub, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kansas City, Mo., field office.
“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message — the FBI will hold those accountable who use deception and fraud to take advantage of others in our community,” he said.
Parcells made news in 2014 when he and another private professional conducted an autopsy on behalf of his family for Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
The fatal shooting of Brown sparked daily protests that called international attention to national issues that included racial disparities and the militarization of police departments.
Parcells pleaded guilty last May to one of 10 counts of wire fraud that had been filed against him in an indictment in November 2020. In exchange, the other nine counts were dismissed, court records said. Parcells’ term is to be followed by three years of supervised release.
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He was also convicted last November on three counts each of theft and criminal desecration linked to autopsies he performed there in 2014 and 2015. He is yet to be sentenced in those cases, but he was banned last month from doing business in Kansas.
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at email@example.com or 785-213-5934.