ASHEVILLE, North Carolina, January 12, 2010 (ENS) – A Hayesville, North Carolina man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Asheville to serve one year in prison for illegally selling and transporting wild American ginseng into Georgia, the Justice Department said.
Howard William Ledford pleaded guilty on November 9, 2009, to two counts charging him with selling and transporting wild American ginseng in violation of the Lacey Act.
Ledford was also fined $50,000 which will be placed in the Lacey Act Reward Account.
Ledford admitted that in 2004 and 2005 he sold wild ginseng for approximately $109,000 without the required export certificates and transported, or caused the transport of wild ginseng into Georgia from North Carolina.
The conviction arose from a three-year anti-poaching investigation intended to document the unlawful take, purchase, sale and transport of ginseng and bear parts within and along the southern Appalachians by various individuals.
The person to whom Ledford illegally sold the ginseng, Chiu Hung Lo, aka Sherry Lo, also pleaded guilty on November 9 and will be sentenced later.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to transport or sell plants taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of state law or regulation. Wild ginseng is considered a protected plant under both the Lacey Act and under North Carolina law.
It is unlawful under North Carolina law to export or ship any amount of ginseng out of the state without a state-issued export certificate.
Ginseng is a slow growing perennial herb that reaches two feet tall. It requires shade, likes the north-facing slopes in hardwood forests and is best adapted to cool, temperate climates. It grows naturally in the western mountains and foothills of North Carolina.
Wild ginseng grown in western North Carolina can command prices of up to $900 a pound. The roots are valued for medical uses and have been exported from North America to Asia since the early 18th century.
Native North Americans consider ginseng one of their most sacred herbs and add it to many herbal formulas to make them more potent.
North American White Ginseng, Panax quinquefolium, is believed to have a cooling effect on the body. This cooling, energy giving, endurance enhancing factor is believed to be beneficial in a fast paced, stressful world.
Proponents believe the plant enhances physical and mental activity, increases stamina and vitality, builds resistance to stress and promotes a healthy libido.