The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Lumber Liquidators Sentenced to $13.2 Million for Smuggling Illegal Wood Into the U.S.
Virginia-based company Lumber Liquidators was sentenced today to $13.2 million in fines and forfeitures for importing illegal wood and submitting false declarations under the Lacey Act, a conservation law that makes it a crime to import plants and animals taken in violation of state and foreign law. In addition, the company has been placed on a five-year probation, during which it must implement a strict environmental compliance plan.
In October 2015, after a two-year investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the flooring retailer pleaded guilty to smuggling illegal wood, including one criminal felony of entry of goods by means of false statements and four misdemeanor counts of violating the Lacey Act.
Lumber Liquidators had imported flooring manufactured in China, made from wood that was illegally harvested in the forests of the Russian Far East, the habitat of the world’s last remaining wild Siberian tigers.
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) first documented Lumber Liquidators’ illegal activities in its 2013 report, Liquidating the Forests. Posing as timber buyers, EIA investigators went undercover to expose the illegal timber harvesting and trade in the Russian Far East and traced the wood through China to a company that admitted to illegal logging and paying bribes. The EIA investigation revealed that Lumber Liquidators was the single biggest trading partner of this Chinese company. The subsequent investigation by the DOJ found that Lumber Liquidators committed systemic fraud and sourced illegal timber not only from the Russian Far East but also from Burma.
“This historic criminal sentence against a major U.S. company in relation to the Lacey Act is setting an important precedent: Illegal wood is no longer tolerated in the U.S.,” EIA Executive Director Alexander von Bismarck said. “U.S. consumers need to be protected from unknowingly supporting organized crime and the destruction of the world’s last virgin forests.”
The penalties for Lumber Liquidators’ crimes include $7.8 million in criminal fines, $1.23 million Community Service payments, $969,175 in forfeited proceeds and more than $3.15 million in cash through a related civil forfeiture. In order to put in place the mandatory environmental compliance plan, under which all wood imports need to be verified back to the source of harvesting, the company will have to fundamentally transform its sourcing practices and submit itself to government-approved audits.
“The real cost to the company will come from having to forego cheap, stolen wood in its supply chain while the Department of Justice looks over its shoulder,” von Bismarck said. “This case sets an important example for the rest of the industry, the business model of buying cheap wood from shady sources doesn’t pay anymore.”
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.