Tennessee ginseng dealer pleads guilty to falsifying records

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Tennessee ginseng dealer has pleaded guilty in federal court to falsifying records to conceal illegal purchases of ginseng prior to the legal harvesting season.

Randall F. Henry, 49, of Sunbright, Tennessee, pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on Tuesday. Henry plead guilty to a felony count of falsifying records to conceal his illegal purchases of ginseng prior to the legal harvest season in 2015 in violation of the Lacey Act, a federal law enacted to combat the illegal trafficking of plants and wildlife.

The plea agreement will require Henry to pay restitution to the State of Tennessee and perform 100 hours of community service. Sentencing is set for December 8. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of up to five years.

In Tennessee, American Ginseng dealers are required to routinely submit paperwork to The Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation to document their ginseng purchases. Henry admitted to falsifying such documents in 2015 after purchasing American Ginseng before the opening of the established season.

According to the plea agreement, Henry knowingly omitted the purchase of approximately 71.88 pounds of American Ginseng. Ginseng has a market value greater than $350 per pound, the release said.

“The collaborative efforts of USFWS and the Department of Justice work to deter individuals from violating the laws and regulations designed to protect our natural ginseng resources, and from engaging in these types of illegal practices that threaten this resource. We will pursue any companies or persons who engage in similar unlawful conduct,” said J. Douglas Overbey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

“Breaking up international and domestic smuggling rings that specifically exploit native plants and animals is a very important part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement’s work,” said FWS Acting Special Agent in Charge Stephen Clark.

This plea is the result of “Operation Green Gold,” a multi-jurisdiction investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service into the illegal harvesting, trafficking, and smuggling of American Ginseng.

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