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Elizabethtown, Kentucky Ginseng Dealer Sentenced


February 21, 2007


Sandy Focken, Department Of Justice, (502) 582-5911
Tom MacKenzie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 404/679-7291

David L. Huber, United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, announced today that on February 20, 2007, MACK E. THOMAS of 1401 St. John Road, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in Hardin County, was sentenced to pay a $10,000 fine and pay a $50.00 Special Penalty Assessment.

Thomas (1) knowingly aided and abetted the sale of wild ginseng in interstate commerce when he should have known that the plants had been purchased outside the buying season established by Kentucky law (September 1 of each year through March 31 of the following year); and (2) knowingly made and submitted false records, that is Wild Ginseng Purchase Records, and stated that protected plants were purchased within the buying season when they were not. The charges are in violation of Title 16, United States Code, Section 3372(a)(2)(B), 3372(d)(2), 3373(d)(2) and 3373(d)(3)(B), the Lacey Act.

The sentenced was imposed by United States Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin in United States District Court, Louisville, Kentucky.

Thomas, a ginseng dealer, pleaded guilty to purchasing wild ginseng outside the purchase season and to making false statements on Wild Ginseng purchase records (as to the amounts purchased) submitted to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

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 an 8 million dollar industry. Kentucky is the largest supplier of wild ginseng in the United States, averaging approximately 16% of the national harvest annually. The average wholesale value of wild ginseng to a root digger is approximately $300 per pound.

The prosecution of Thomas and others marks the culmination of a 21 month investigation by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, with the cooperation of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, into the illegal trade in wild Kentucky ginseng, specifically with interstate commerce in unlawfully purchased wild ginseng by ginseng dealers in violation of
the Lacey Act. Charges against other individuals are anticipated.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ream and was investigated by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.


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