Succulent Poachers Plead Guilty

FIsh and Wildlife officer holding a succulent.

Fish and Wildlife officer holding a succulent. [Photo from the Department of Fish and Wildlife]

Press release from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Three defendants in a succulent plant poaching case out of Humboldt County have each pled guilty to two felonies and other misdemeanor charges, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced. Felony convictions included conspiracy and false filings with the government, and misdemeanor convictions included removal of plant material from public lands and commercial sales of plants removed from public lands.

The succulent plants at the center of the investigation are called Dudleyas. They grow in unique niches close to the coastline, typically on cliffsides immediately adjacent to the water. The poachers had a network of buyers in Korea and China, where Dudleya are valued as a trendy houseplant.

Removal of Dudleya, or any vegetation in sensitive habitat, can result in environmental degradation of habitat and a destabilization of bluffs and cliffs on the coastline. Some Dudleya species are rare or at risk of extinction.

Wildlife officers worked extensively with allied law enforcement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Postal Service inspectors to track down and collect evidence of poaching the succulent plants for sale overseas. During the investigation, wildlife officers witnessed the three removing plants from coastal bluffs in the Humboldt Lagoons State Park. On April 4, officers found the trio in possession of 2,300 Dudleya plants and more than $10,200 in cash.

All three defendants were foreign nationals. Liu Fengxia, 37, of China, and Tae-Hun Kim, 52, and Tae-Hyun Kim, 46, both from Korea, were handed a sentence of three years and eight months in state prison and a $10,000 fine each. Judge John T. Feeney suspended the prison sentences with the conditions that the defendants are prohibited from entering the United States without prior authorization of the federal government and state courts, and prohibited from entering any local, state or national park.

In addition to the fines, the defendants will also forfeit the $10,200 to CDFW as restitution. These funds will be used specifically for the conservation of Dudleya on public lands in Humboldt County.

“Together with prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, we hope this conviction and sentencing will send a message to those who may consider poaching California’s precious natural resources to sell overseas for personal profit,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement.

The case developed from a tip from a member of the public who saw something amiss. Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text with the tip411 app. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired, and a reward can result from successful capture and prosecution.

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  • Laytonville Rock
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16 comments

  • Seems like suspending the prison time takes a lot of the sting out of the punishment. Guess the government just wants its cut of the profit.

  • Sounds like deportation,can’t return.they will have story to tell of impunity.

    • Sounds like?
      Not a word of deportation here and no word on who is going to make sure they go back home wgere they belong.
      Hou do this crap in china or korea and you get executed. Deport these clowns!

  • Why does the suspended sentence not surprise me coming from a Humboldt judge? Make them serve the time then kick their asses out of our country.

  • Wow, great job! Except they aren’t going to pay a dime or go to jail…. but good job guys, I think. I like how they won’t allow them back in the US, as long as they leave. Gotta love humboldt. Or hate it as the case might be becoming

  • You know, the title of this piece made me laugh out loud. Thank you.

    • I’m glad you noticed…Sometimes I only amuse myself.

      • I had to laugh as well…….I just couldn’t understand why this was such a big deal until I read the article……understand where they were taking them from……but I still think it is funny that the plants are such a big deal as a house plant in China and Korea…….still makes me chuckle!

  • >” Make them serve the time then kick their asses out of our country.”

    You will pay for the jail time.
    They won’t be back in the USA for a long time.

  • Prob for the best if they don’t do time here in the states. Costs a lot to house inmates. As tax payers, we r prob better off with this deal

  • according to average, it would cost tax payers aproximately $600,000 to house three foreign prisoners for two and a half years, therefore suspending sentences , removing and preventing them from entering the country again makes a lot of sense financially…how were these guys gonna move thousands of these plants, presumably to foreign markets, anyways?

  • The little bastards tried to still from my front yard. Only if they knew what was waiting behind the door when we caught them. Yes they did get away but I got my plants back. I hate thieves

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    It is quite amazing, in a country where there is literally money to be made almost everywhere, that these folks want to go straight to stealing and exporting – a small plant?

    Why not just break the laws?

    The response of the government seems severe, banishment for life! They ARE low-lifes, but pretty industrious!

    Seems like if they were going to get into trouble, they could have gotten into more trouble than this…

    At least they are not manufacturing drugs and selling them on the black market…

    We can banish the undesirables, but they seem to just keep coming back! And the first thing immigrants learn is how easy it is to sneak in from the South. Wow, legal immigrants who wait 7 years really get mad when they find out about folks coming in through the Southern Border!

  • If they don’t go to prison for 3 years and don’t pay the fine, tax payers are still money ahead. Prohibited from entering the US is much better than housing and feeding these idiots.

  • Keep them away from abalone!!!

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