US company pays $10 million fine for importing wood from endangered habitats

Lumber importer faces fines for falsely claiming wood came from other locations.

Lumber Liquidators, a Toano, Virginia based company, has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors for telling U.S. officials the wood it was selling for flooring came from Germany instead of the actual location, the habitats of endangered Siberian tigers in Asia, according to the Washington Post.

The settlement, reached after a two-year investigation, also includes a five-year probation period and the appointment of an outside auditor.  U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk accepted the plea, but warned the company of consequences if the company did not follow the arrangement.  Judge Jackson cautioned the firm, saying, “Lumber Liquidators will cease the importation of hardwood if they do not follow the plan.”

The company pleaded guilty in October, conceding that some of its wood came from Asia instead of Germany as specified on the firm’s import paperwork.  This was a violation of the Lacey Act, which forbids the import of lumber that has been taken in violation of any other country’s regulations.  At the time of the guilty plea, Lumber Liquidators agreed to pay $13.2 million in fines and forfeitures, making this agreement the largest ever imposed under the Act.

The company was charged with a felony for making false statements and four lesser charges, and has said it was cooperating fully with the investigation and the firm has changed its sourcing policies and enhanced its compliance procedures.

Under the agreement, the company will pay $880,825 to the federally chartered National Fish ans Wildlife Foundation, an additional $380,825 will be applied to the conservation of Amur leopards and their habitats, plus $350,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund.

The company released a statement saying they were pleased to put the issue behind them.

Siberian tigers, an endangered species with only 450 left in existence, feed on deer and wild boar who eat the acorns that fall from the Mongolian oaks in East Asia, where Amur leopards, another endangered species, hunt also.

Lumber Liquidators is also facing lawsuits arising from importing laminated flooring from China that contains excessive levels of formaldehyde, as reported on a 60 Minutes report back in March of last year.

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