Three defendants caught in the global succulent poaching scheme happening in Northern California, 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 were handed to Taehun Kim, 52, and Taeyun Kim, 46, both of Korea, and Liu Fengxia, 37, of China. Included in the charges were 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 men were handed a sentence of three years and eight months in state prison and a $10,000 fine each.
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.
The Dudleya farinosa succulents are well known to grow on the Northern California coastline, with many in the Mendocino and Humboldt regions, with an endangered species living in Santa Clara County. It was found earlier in the year that these plants were being illegally uprooted in Northern California and sent to Asian countries in order to sell for $50 a piece.
CDFW launched an investigation into these crimes when they began finding the succulents at post offices in packages being sent overseas. Officials finally found a van parked along Highway 1 loaded with boxes. They first suspected abalone poachers, but when they searched the van they found hundreds of Dudleya. Following the arrest of the men, officials raided the suspects cabin in Trinidad, uncovering thousands more succulents.
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.
The recovered Dudleya were replanted in their original locations, but it’s unclear how many were actually stolen and sent overseas.
If you notice any suspicious poaching activity, please call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411.