Ginsing poachers in national park fined and jailed

Two Swain County men were convicted and sentenced in federal court last month in Bryson City for stealing ginseng from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Billy Joe Hurley, 42, and Jeffrey N. Hurley, 34, of Bryson City, were found guilty and were sentenced to a jail term for illegal possession of American ginseng. Billy Joe Hurley was sentenced to 75 days in jail and fined $5,540 in restitution to the park for possessing 554 wild ginseng roots; and Jeffrey Hurley was sentenced to 14 days in jail and fined $2,510 in restitution to the park for possessing 251 roots.

In late October, as part of an ongoing investigation, a ranger caught the Hurley brothers in the North Carolina area of the park with more than 11 pounds of freshly dug roots that had been poached in one day’s time. The roots were later aged by park biologists, and it was determined that most of the roots were at least 10 years old, but some of the larger ones were found to be 30 to 40 years old. The offense carries a maximum misdemeanor penalty of up to 6 months in jail and/or fine of up to $5,000.

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