Two people pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to illegally trafficking thousand of dollars worth of ginseng from Arkansas to Missouri, according to authorities.
Kermit Schofield, 76, and his wife, Sandy Schofield, 73, face up to five years in federal prison.
The couple admitted to illegally purchasing about 115 pounds of wild American ginseng from “sources in Arkansas” and transporting the plant to Missouri on multiple occasions between June 2013 and August 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri said in a news release.
The couple sold plants and herbs from their business in Theodosia, Mo., according to the release. Federal authorities searched their residence and seized the ginseng, which was valued at about $400 per pound, before it was sold.
Wild American ginseng takes years to cultivate and sell. It has been has been protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species since 1975.
Ginseng prices have soared in recent years, particularly in Asia, where some countries have harvested the plant nearly to extinction, according to reports. Most of the ginseng harvested in the U.S. is exported to China.
Arkansas is one of 19 states in which ginseng is allowed to be harvested, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Arkansas State Plant Board regulates the harvest, sale and export of wild American ginseng in the state. Arkansas law says that the plant “shall not enter or leave the State of Arkansas” unless authorized.
Authorities said the Schofields admitted to falsifying records related to ginseng purchases.