Friends offer support after Theodosia couple plead guilty to illegally trafficking in ginseng
Area residents are responding with support for a Theodosia couple, Kermit J. Schofield, 76, and his wife, Sandy Schofield, 73, who pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to illegally trafficking in wild American ginseng. According to a news release from Tom Larson, acting United States attorney for the Western District of Missouri, the Schofields waived their right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to federal charges of trafficking in wild American ginseng plants across state lines in violation of state and federal laws.
For many years, the Schofields have operated a business from their home that purchases and sells wild American ginseng, blood root, echinacea, Virginia snake root and other roots and herbs.
In pleading guilty Friday, the Schofields each admitted that they illegally purchased a total of approximately 114.9 pounds of ginseng from sources in Arkansas on several occasions between June 25, 2013, and Aug. 15, 2015. The news release said, “They knew it was illegal to purchase ginseng that was transported out of Arkansas without the required state certification. The purchases occurred outside the permitted time frame for purchasing ginseng in Missouri. The Schofields also admitted they falsified records related to the purchases.”
As an example of the Schofields’ actions, the news release said they “purchased approximately 57.4 pounds of dried ginseng from sources in Arkansas on June 19 and Aug. 15, 2015, for a total of $22,940. Federal authorities executed a search warrant at their residence and seized 118 pounds of illegally obtained dried ginseng before the Schofields were able to sell it.” Under the terms of the plea agreement, the Schofields must forfeit the seized ginseng to the government, the news release said.
It continued, “The Lacey Act makes it illegal to import, export, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate commerce any plant that is taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of state law. Under Arkansas statutes, the Arkansas State Plant Board has authority to regulate the harvesting, sale, and exportation of wild American ginseng. A valid certificate must be obtained to take ginseng out of the state of Arkansas. Missouri also regulates the harvesting, sale, importation and acquisition of wild American ginseng.”
The news release says this about possible sentencing: “Under federal statutes, the Schofields are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of pre-sentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.”
This case, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey Clark, was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation, according to the news release.
After Sandy Schofield posted on her Facebook page the news release announcing their guilty plea, friends posted dozens of supportive comments, including questions asking where letters could be written on their behalf. Sandy replied, “Our lawyer said anyone can write the judge (Address to Dear Judge) as character witness but must not mention the case in anyway. Just what you know of us personally.” Sandy added her thanks saying the lawyer has received several letters already. “Helps us feel better,” she said.
Letters can be sent to the Schofields’ lawyer:
Megan E. McCullough
Carnahan, Evans, Cantwell & Brown, P.C.
2805 S. Ingram Mill Road
Springfield, MO 65804