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July 14, 2014: A Toronto man pleaded guilty and has been fined a total of $30,000 for an endangered species-related offence.

Kenneth Wing-Pue So was fined $30,000 for the unlawful sale of American ginseng, harvested from the wild in Ontario, at several of his retail stores in the Markham area. So is the president of a variety of companies that are retail stores involved in the sale of ginseng.

Court heard that on November 27, 2012, an officer purchased wild American ginseng roots from the SBS-Sino Canada retail store located at 4300 Steeles Avenue in Markham. Officers later returned with search warrants to several more retail stores, including SBS Sino Canada and Anafit Health located at 4438 Sheppard Avenue East. They seized nine boxes of wild American ginseng from SBS Sino-Canada and seven boxes from Anafit Health. All the seized boxes were available for sale in those retail stores.

The total retail price for the 16 boxes seized from the two stores was more than $8,000. All seized ginseng was forfeited to the Crown.

American ginseng is a plant native to the undisturbed forests of Ontario. It is very slow growing and requires special conditions to survive. Wild populations of this important plant are threatened by illegal harvest for commercial purposes.

Justice of the Peace Rhonda Roffey heard the case in the Ontario Court of Justice, Toronto, on June 5, 2014.

If you have any information about the unlawful harvest and sale of wild American ginseng, or to report a natural resources violation, call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free any time. You can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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