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Missouri couple bought 115 pounds of ginseng; now they face 5 years in prison

Max Londberg, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An Ozarks couple could go to prison for five years for purchasing about 115 pounds of ginseng.

Kermit J. Schofield, 76, and his wife, Sandy Schofield, 73, pleaded guilty last week to illegally trafficking the plant, which is protected from extinction by an international treaty and state regulations that the Schofields violated, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Missouri said in a release.

The couple run a business, Schofield Roots and Herbs, from their home in Theodosia, Mo., near the Arkansas border. Aside from wild American ginseng, they also sold blood root, echinacea, Virginia snake root, and other roots and herbs.

From 2013 to 2015, the Schofields made multiple purchases of ginseng in Arkansas and transported it to Missouri without obtaining a certification required to do so.

They also purchased the plant outside the six-month window, from mid-September to mid-March, during which Missourians can legally buy it in dried form outside the state.

The Schofields spent about $26,000 on ginseng purchases in Arkansas in 2013 and 2014. They then sold the illicit ginseng for about $42,500 in Missouri.

In 2015, they purchased approximately $22,000 of ginseng, which was ultimately seized by investigators.

When reached by phone, Sandy Schofield declined to comment, citing the pending court case. The couple's attorney could not immediately be reached.

The plant is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

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Some people use ginseng to treat medical conditions and believe it increases energy and mental faculties, but evidence supporting such benefits is inconclusive.

The Schofields knowingly violated state regulations and falsified records, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Kermit Schofield agreed to pay $65,615 to the Arkansas State Plant Board and a $5,000 federal fine.

The couple will be sentenced at a later date.

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