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Press Release

North Carolina man admits to ginseng violation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia

ELKINS, WEST VIRGINIA – David Changhyub Lee, of Raleigh, North Carolina, has admitted to aiding and abetting the illegal transportation of ginseng across state lines, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

Lee, 35, pled guilty today to one count of “Interstate Transportation of Ginseng in Violation of State Law – Aiding and Abetting.” 

In the fall of 2018, Lee was identified as a willing buyer of illegally transported ginseng. In September and October 2018, Lee facilitated and purchased nearly 15 pounds of ginseng for a total of $4250 from Randolph County and elsewhere and transported it to North Carolina.

This case was in violation of the federal Lacey Act (16 USC § 3371 et seq.), which prohibits the taking and interstate trafficking of protected plants and animals in violation of state law.  Under 16 USC § 3373, it's a felony if the plant's market value exceeds $350.00.  West Virginia's ginseng statute (WV Code 19-1A-3a) has various requirements for the ginseng market.  One requirement is that ginseng not be transported to another state absent a certificate of origin from the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Lee faces up to one year of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen D. Warner is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the West Virginia Natural Resources Police investigated.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi presided.

Updated December 2, 2020