International plant poacher who travelled to America 50 times ‘to steal succulents’ is jailed in the US

Byungsu Kim and his two accomplices pulled out the plants from various national parks in the US and harvested them

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 21 January 2022 09:18
<p>A South Korean man has been jailed for illegally smuggling Dudleya succulents </p>

A South Korean man has been jailed for illegally smuggling Dudleya succulents

A South Korean man has been jailed in the US for illegally smuggling live Dudleya succulent plants worth $150,000 (£110,601) to Asia.

A California court on Thursday sentenced Byungsu Kim, 46, to two years in jail and ordered him to pay $3,985 (£2938) in restitution for the stolen plants.

Court documents show that Kim along with two others had pulled up and harvested the plants from national parks across the US in 2018 including DeMartin State Beach in Klamath, California, and from Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

Kim and his accomplices then boxed the plants and falsely claimed that they were purchased in San Diego.

“The defendants then transported the plants to a commercial exporter in Compton, to whom Kim intended to present the fraudulently obtained certificate so the Dudleya plants could be smuggled to South Korea,” court records said.

“When the defendants left, local law enforcement executed a search warrant at the cargo shipping company and found 3,715 Dudleya plants in boxes that were labeled “Rush” and “Live Plants”. These were the plants the defendants had pulled out of the ground from public lands in Northern California.”

After his arrest his passport was confiscated, but Kim obtained a new South Korean passport the following January by falsely claiming to the consulate in Los Angeles that he had lost his passport.

In May 2019, Kim fled to Mexico after he found about the criminal charges pending against him. He then flew to South Korea from Mexico via China.

In July 2019 he pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to export plants taken in violation of state law.

He served four months in federal custody and was released in October 2019 after he which he was arrested in South Africa for charges related to a similar scheme in which he illegally collected plants from protected areas in that nation to export to South Korea.

In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors wrote, ““[Kim’s] willful criminal conduct in October 2019 was not an isolated event: he had carried out the same scheme repeatedly in California.”

“[Kim] had traveled to the United States more than 50 times since 2009. Customs records show that he was travelling for succulent-related purposes and often with tens of thousands of dollars in cash (sometimes declared, sometime not) and fake phytosanitary certificates.”

In September 2021, Kim pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to export plants taken in violation of state law.

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