Two Convicted of Succulent Poaching
Two men convicted of poaching for profit native succulents that grow wild on the bluffs of the Mendocino coast were sentenced Wednesday to suspended prison in the Mendocino County Superior Court.
Minguk Cho, age 27, of South Korea, and Hyeongjae Kim, age 39, of South Korea, were each convicted of grand theft of property valued at greater than $950, a felony.
Following a sentence bargain negotiated and agreed to by the parties, each defendant was sentenced to 24 months in prison, said prison sentenced being suspended pending successful completion of 36 months of formal probation.
As part of the sentence and in addition to court fines and fees, the defendants were required to pay – and did pay — $10,000 each to the California Fish and Wildlife for habitat restoration. The defendants were also ordered to exit the United States within 48 hours and not return unless their immigration status allows one or both to do so legally. It is anticipated that each defendant will be denied re-entry due to their new felony theft convictions.
These defendants were caught in March 2018 in the area between Point Arena and Anchor Bay with 30 moving boxes of native succulents known as Dudleya Farinosa. An inventory of the boxes revealed 850 rooted plants with 1,400 rosettes. Together, the plants stolen weighed between 600 and 700 pounds.
The two poachers also had with them paperwork for vendors all over the world. According the investigator, “These people are global exotic plant vendors. I’d guess they’re not just in dudleyas but carnivorous plants deep in the jungle in Sumatra.” The local plants can sell to collectors overseas starting at $50 each and going up from there.
The plants targeted by these poachers are also known as “bluff lettuce”, “powdery liveforever” (owing to the leaves’ dusty appearance) or simply “liveforever.” The squat plants boast a geometric beauty reminiscent to some of the blossom of a lotus flower. In bloom, they sprout stalks, decked in clusters of small yellow flowers.
The prosecutors handling this case were District Attorney David Eyster and Deputy District Attorney Tim Stoen. The investigating law enforcement agency was the California Fish and Wildlife, with a special nod going to the arresting officer, Warden Patrick Freeling.
The judge who imposed sentencing today was Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman.