Prosecutions Net Fines of $56,500 for Federal Ginseng Violations in Kentucky
Jim Gale, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, announced today that on July 6, 2007, Charles Allen (London), Clay Gibson (Manchester), Jerry Gray (Flat Lick), Larry Hensley (Flat Lick), Kenzie Ison (Slemp), Tony Ison (Viper), and Colson Napier (Pineville) were each sentenced in United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, in London for engaging in the interstate commerce of unlawfully purchased wild ginseng, in violation of the Lacey Act.
For their respective roles in dealing with illegally harvested and/or purchased wild ginseng, the ginseng dealers were sentenced to pay the following fines: Charles Allen - $10,000, Clay Gibson - $2,500, Jerry Gray - $5,000, Larry Hensley - $8,000, Kenzie Ison - $15,000, Tony Ison - $10,000, Colson Napier - $6,000 and all were sentenced to between 12 and 18 months probation.
The Lacey Act makes it a Federal violation to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any fish, wildlife or plants, taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State.
The wild ginseng trade in Kentucky is a $5 million to $8 million dollar industry. Kentucky is the largest supplier of wild ginseng in the United States, averaging about 16 percent of the national harvest annually. The average wholesale value of wild ginseng to a root digger varies from $300 to $500 per pound.
The investigation, conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, in cooperation of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, documented a 95% violation rate with the 30% of Kentucky’s ginseng dealers investigated. The most common violations were ginseng dealers buying ginseng outside the established state ginseng season and submitting false documents to conceal those out of season purchases. The Kentucky ginseng digging season opens August 15 of each year and the selling season opens September 1. Seasons are established to ensure that ginseng plants reach maturity each year and produce seeds prior to being harvested; which ensures sustainability of the wild ginseng population.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture implements the ginseng management program in Kentucky, which is required by Federal regulations in order for Kentucky’s ginseng to be eligible for export from the United States. A high percentage of Kentucky’s ginseng is exported to Southeast Asia where it is used in the medicinal trade.
Additional federal prosecutions as a result of this investigation are pending across Kentucky.
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