United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
FOUR NORTH CAROLINA MEN SENTENCED TO JAIL FOR THE ILLEGAL HARVESTING OF GINSENG ROOTS BRYSON CITY, N.C. - Four North Carolina men have been sentenced in separate cases in United States District Court for the illegal possession or harvesting of American Ginseng from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Joining U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement is Clayton Jordan, Chief Ranger of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The four defendants were each charged with possession of or the harvesting of ginseng roots. They pled guilty to the charges and were each sentenced as follows:
• Billy Joe Hurley, 45, of Bryson City, was arrested on October 14, 2011, for harvesting ginseng. He possessed 187 ginseng roots. While executing a search warrant at Hurley’s residence, Park Rangers seized a list of places to harvest ginseng within the National Park, ginseng digging tools and clipped out newspaper articles about prior incidents of ginseng poaching within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hurley was sentenced on October 26, 2011 to serve 120 days in jail.
• Mark S. Parham, 24, of Canton, was arrested in the Cataloochee Valley area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He possessed 176 ginseng roots. Parham, who has a prior conviction for harvesting ginseng on private land, was sentenced on October 26, 2011 to serve 40 days in jail.
• Anthony K. Sequoyah, Jr., 24, of Cherokee, was arrested on October 8, 2011, for harvesting ginseng. He possessed 150 ginseng roots, and was sentenced on October 26, 2011 to serve 52 days in jail.
• Trinity D. Frady, 25, of Cherokee, was arrested on October 9, 2011 for harvesting ginseng. He possessed 32 ginseng roots, and was sentenced on October 26, 2011 to serve 15 days in jail.
In all cases, the recovered viable ginseng roots were replanted by staff of the National Park Service. “The illegal harvesting of American Ginseng poses a threat to this precious national resource,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “Poaching ginseng is a crime our office takes seriously. We will continue to work closely with National Park Service Rangers to protect wild ginseng from extinction by prosecuting those who profit from the illegal harvesting and sale of ginseng roots.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reminds the public that gathering ginseng on federal lands, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a federal crime. The Smokies are the largest fully protected reserve known for wild ginseng. This plant was formerly abundant throughout the eastern mountains, but due to repeated poaching, populations have been reduced to a point that they can barely reproduce. The roots poached in this park are usually young, between the ages of 5 and 10 years, and have not yet reached their full reproductive capacity. In time, the park’s populations might recover if poaching ceased.
The investigation of the cases was handled by Park Rangers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The prosecution was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville. To report illegal harvesting activities of American Ginseng within the Smokies, please call the Law Enforcement Desk of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 1-865-436-1230.