Jail time handed down in illegal ginseng case

Athens, Ohio — Five individuals were recently charged with ginseng related violations in Muskingum County, according to the Ohio DNR.

In early September, a caller provided information to the Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) hotline regarding possible ginseng violations in Muskingum County. The caller believed that several individuals may have been dropped off at Blue Rock State Forest. State wildlife officers Roby Williams and Bryan Postlethwait responded to the area and conducted surveillance. Eventually a female driver returned to the area. The officers were able to contact the driver and four male suspects who were walking out of the woods and getting into the vehicle. The officers interviewed the suspects, who admitted to digging ginseng on Blue Rock State Forest.

A total of 254 ginseng roots were discovered and seized from the suspects. On Sept. 21, all five suspects appeared in Muskingum County Court. All suspects were found guilty of digging ginseng on state property. The suspects paid a total of $2,850 in fines and court costs, were ordered to a total of 120 hours of community service, and a total of 25 days in jail. All are on probation for one year and are prohibited from digging ginseng for two years.

Ginseng harvest season is from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 annually. Diggers must keep accurate harvest records by county and collection date, and all ginseng must be certified by the DNR Division of Wildlife before it is exported from Ohio. More information about ginseng in Ohio can be found in the publication Ohio’s Green GOLD and on wildohio.gov.

Anyone observing or suspecting that ginseng violations are occurring may report the illegal activity by calling the TIP hotline toll free at 1-800-POACHER.

Defendants, charges, and sentences in the case are:

• Brandon McNutt, 18, Chandlersville – convicted of digging ginseng on state property. Sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay $650 in fines and court costs. Placed on probation for one year and prohibited from digging ginseng for two years.

• Russell A Stemm III, 19, Zanesville – convicted of digging ginseng on state property. Sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay $450 in fines and court costs. Placed on probation for one year, ordered to complete 60 hours of community service, and prohibited from digging ginseng for two years.

• Michael Wickham, 20, New Lexington – convicted of digging ginseng on state property. Sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay $450 in fines and court costs. Placed on probation for one year, ordered to complete 60 hours of community service, and prohibited from digging ginseng for two years.

• Jonathan L. Clark, 26, Zanesville – convicted of digging ginseng on state property. Sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay $650 in fines and court costs. Placed on probation for one year and prohibited from digging ginseng for two years.

• Tiffany A Clark, 25, Zanesville – convicted of digging ginseng on state property. Sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay $650 in fines and court costs. Placed on probation for one year and prohibited from digging ginseng for two years.

All ginseng seized was forfeited to the State of Ohio.

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