A federal judge ordered a Wisconsin-Minnesota corporation, which has a store in La Crosse, to pay $100,000 in penalties and to pull out of wild ginseng trade for two years.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden Ed McCann of La Crosse says Wiebke Produce Inc., which is also known as Wiebke Fur & Trading Company, knowingly purchased wild ginseng from individuals who did not have a harvest license before the sale. McCann says the company also falsified official documents to transport that product across state lines, which is a federal law violation.
“It would be like the deer hunter who doesn’t have a license but shoots the deer anyway. Then, the hunter brings the deer to the registration station and buys the hunting license from the registration station after the harvest,” McCann said.
Wiebke must pay $50,000 in fines for the violation of the U.S. Lacey Act, the nation’s law to combat illegal trafficking of wildlife, fish and plants. The company must also ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution for loss of the natural resource to the state of Wisconsin. Wiebke also can’t be involved in the ginseng industry until August 6, 2015.
“This involved a lot of work to confirm the company knew the law and knowingly violated the law,” McCann said. “We didn’t simply target a business. The investigation involved talking with individuals who were suspected of wild ginseng violations, and those interviews led to this business. These individuals were not law-abiding landowners looking to legally sell wild ginseng off their properties. These were violators, some with lengthy criminal records, and not landowners.”