A Leawood man temporarily banned from conducting autopsies in Kansas was indicted Wednesday on 10 counts of federal wire fraud charges.
The indictment, filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas, alleges that 41-year-old Shawn Parcells, a self-taught pathology assistant with no formal education or certification, made more than $1.1 million charging clients for full autopsy reports despite lacking the qualifications to do the work and, in many cases, failing to ever provide the final reports.
In addition to Wednesday’s federal indictment, he already faces a lawsuit and state criminal charges.
Parcells, the indictment said, worked as an assistant in the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office from 1996 to 2003 before starting his own pathology business.
His business, National Autopsy Services, LLC, was incorporated in Kansas in 2016, prosecutors say.
Between 2016 and 2019, Parcells allegedly received fees from 375 clients to perform autopsies.
Prosecutors say Parcells told clients their cases would be handled by a pathologist and included the name of a licensed pathologist on reports given to families. No licensed pathologist, however, worked on any of the cases.
Though Parcells allegedly claimed to need 90 to 180 days to complete autopsies he often never sent reports. Prosecutors say he delayed complaints from clients by telling them he needed additional information to finish a case when he had “no intention or ability to complete the case.”
Additionally, the court records said, Parcells misrepresented himself as a PhD or an M.D. to clients and marketed his company as if it was an international operation rather than a single morgue in Topeka.
If convicted, Parcells could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Parcells’ attorney, Eric Kjorlie, said an email to The Star that he was unable to comment on the case until he had fully reviewed the indictment.
Last year a Shawnee County district judge temporarily banned Parcells and his companies from conducting autopsies, forensic pathology and tissue recovery until a lawsuit alleging violations of Kansas’ consumer protection and false claims acts were resolved.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment seized the biological samples remaining in his Topeka premises.
In May, Parcells was banned from providing services related to COVID-19 after he formed a new business offering to perform swabs for testing.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, Wabaunsee County contracted Parcells to conduct coroner-ordered autopsies.
The lawsuit alleged that Parcells conducted many of the autopsies without a pathologist and billed the county for at least 14 autopsies that weren’t performed.
The lawsuit also claimed Parcells performed private autopsies for families who believed he was qualified.
Parcells is charged in Wabaunsee County District Court with three felony counts of theft and three misdemeanor counts of criminal desecration in regard to the autopsies.
Parcells made national news in 2014 after he helped with the private autopsy of Michael Brown, who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. In 2013, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that some Missouri medical examiners questioned whether he had a medical license, inflated his qualifications and listed doctors who weren’t present at autopsies on reports.
The Star’s Luke Nozicka contributed to this report.
This story was originally published November 18, 2020 6:06 PM.