A West Virginia man on Thursday pleaded guilty to multiple charges of illegally trafficking in protected plants.
According to court documents, Tony Lee Coffman, 59, of Birch River, purchased American ginseng roots that had been illegally transported in interstate commerce from Ohio to West Virginia and falsified records relating to the purchase of Ohio ginseng. American ginseng is protected in over 20 states due to heavy pressures from international trade and is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Coffman pleaded guilty to five Lacey Act violations. A sentencing date has not yet been set. Each of the Lacey Act violations has a statutory maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. A federal district court judge will determine whether to accept the plea agreement after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio made the announcement.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement investigated the case.
Senior Trial Attorney Adam Cullman of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Pakiz and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Marous for the Southern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case.