Indiana DNR officers bust ginseng thief

Ginseng thief busted by Indiana DNR officers

HARRISON CO, IN (WAVE) – In the heart of Corydon, Harmony Health is selling a product many vitamin shops sell, American Ginseng.

A store sign claims it has many different uses ranging from an energy boost, to support for those facing a number of different ailments.

Unprocessed, the rare wild plant can actually be found in the woods nearby, which sometimes creates an issue for law enforcement, as illegal diggers look to make a quick buck.

"It was clear pretty quickly that he was trying to allude our officers," Jim Schreck, an Indiana DNR Conservation Officer, said.

Wednesday, Indiana Conservation Officers, followed an anonymous tip that a suspect was trespassing onto private property and stealing hundreds of dollars worth of out-of-season ginseng.

DNR officers said that their manhunt lasted 15 hours.

A K-9 officer named Delta helped multiple officers track the man in the woods of Harrison County.

"We continued following him, caught up with him," Schreck said. "He was hiding in the basement of a residence."

Once taken into custody, investigators found five pounds of ginseng, valued this week around $500, but come September first, when harvest legally opens for the year – closer to $2500.

"This is his source of income, this is what he does, going out and stealing ginseng," Schreck said.

The theft is something conservation officers said will ultimately lead to multiple charges, for offenses in Harrison and Orange County, on land people might not have even realized had so much value.

"You may not even know it's there," Schreck said. "You may not even know that the suspects had been there and basically robbed you. You might not even know it."

Officers said the investigation is ongoing and they are working in other areas to enforce ginseng rules.

Investigators said this is not the first time they've encountered the man who planned to illegally sell the plant.

They add that those illegally harvesting ginseng are often found committing other crimes too.

"I don't want to stereotype ginseng diggers and people who are going out and doing it," Schrek said. "It can be a good source of family income. There's nothing wrong with that, but, typically, 85 percent of the people that are doing it illegally, it coincides with drugs, methamphetamines, heroin."

Officers said another man who was driving the ginseng thief around was snorting prescription pills as law enforcement tracked them.

DNR officials said the crime may seem harmless, but rules are in place to protect the plants survival, as it only reproduces every three to five years.

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