A Missouri couple faces a possible five years of prison for purchasing about 115 pounds of ginseng, the Kansas City Star reports.
Kermit Schofield, 76, and his wife Sandy Schofield, 73, pleaded guilty 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 married couple runs a business, Schofield Roots and Herbs, from their home in Theodosia, Missouri, near the Arkansas border. In addition to wild American ginseng, they also sold blood root, echinacea, Virginia snake root and other roots and herbs.
The Schofields reportedly made multiple purchases of ginseng in Arkansas and transported it to Missouri without obtaining a certification required to do so from 2013 to 2015.
They also purchased the plant outside the six-month window that runs from mid-September to mid-March in which Missourians can legally purchase it in its dried form outside of the state.
In 2013 and 2014, the Schofields spent about $26,000 on ginseng purchases in Arkansas. 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.
Ginseng is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Some people use ginseng to treat medical conditions and believe it increases energy and mental faculties, but evidence supporting such benefits is inconclusive.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said that the Schofields knowingly violated state regulations and falsified records.
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.