Ginseng poaching leads to prison and a hefty fine for North Carolina man

American ginseng is a valuable commodity. Regarded as a powerful herb in all kinds of homeopathic treatments, ginseng is widely regarded to be useful for everything from chronic fatigue and depression to male impotence and colds.

Ginseng is also very, very hard to grow. Native to the woods of Appalachia and a few other areas, it either has to be found through painstaking searches or cultivated in “farms” over several years. Although the price of the herb goes up and down, a single pound has been known to fetch up to $1,500.

The Lacey Act makes interstate trafficking of protected plants a crime

Poaching ginseng isn’t easy, but it is lucrative — and many people who do it feel like they really aren’t doing anything that wrong by taking something that grows wild and selling it. They may reason that it’s not nearly as bad as making and selling drugs when they need money, for example.

But stealing ginseng (whether it’s taken from private or public property) is illegal under most state laws. Cross state lines with a load of the stuff and you’ve committed a federal crime. Because the herb grows so slowly and is so valuable, the authorities can (and do) take the crime seriously.

A 35-year-old Raleigh man just pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the interstate transportation of ginseng after he facilitated the sale of about $4,250 worth of ginseng that was illegally brought from West Virginia to North Carolina back in 2018. Under the Lacey Act, that’s a felony. He may now face up to $10,000 in fines and a year in a federal prison.

Federal crimes come in all shapes and sizes — and some may surprise you. If you’re facing federal charges, don’t take chances with your future: Get help from an experienced legal advocate who can protect your rights and look out for your interests in court.