North Carolina man pleads guilty to federal charge involving illegal ginseng from Randolph County

Crime

ELKINS, W.Va. – A North Carolina man has admitted to aiding and abetting the illegal transportation of ginseng across state lines, from West Virginia to North Carolina, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

David Changhyub Lee, 35 of Raleigh, pleaded guilty Wednesday 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, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 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, the release said.

This case was in violation of the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the taking and interstate trafficking of protected plants and animals in violation of state law. Under the act, 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 in federal prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the West Virginia Natural Resources Police investigated the case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Aloi presided over Lee’s plea hearing.

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