Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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.

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.

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

Huge Victory for Environmentalists: Offshore Fracking Moratorium Now in Effect Off California’s Coast

The Inside Story of How a University Professor Quietly Collaborated With Monsanto

Michael Moore: 10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy, But I Will

Judge Says Lawsuit Can Move Forward for Lucky the Elephant Who Was Captured From the Wild 53 Years Ago

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less
Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure life in the oceans. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less
Authors of a new study warned Thursday that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing a level not seen in 15 million years. Dawn Ellner / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jessica Corbett

As a United Nations agency released new climate projections showing that the world is on track in the next five years to hit or surpass a key limit of the Paris agreement, authors of a new study warned Thursday that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing a level not seen in 15 million years.

Read More Show Less
Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned conservationist, desperately wants the world to pay attention to what she sees as the greatest threat to humanity's existence. Craig Barritt / Getty Images for TIME

By Jeff Berardelli

While COVID-19 and protests for racial justice command the world's collective attention, ecological destruction, species extinction and climate change continue unabated. While the world's been focused on other crises, an alarming study was released warning that species extinction is now progressing so fast that the consequences of "biological annihilation" may soon be "unimaginable."

Read More Show Less
A Starbucks employee in a mask and face shield at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images

Anyone entering a U.S. Starbucks from July 15 will have to wear a face mask, the company announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Supporters cheer before Trump arrives for a rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

On Monday and Tuesday of the week that President Donald Trump held his first rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the county reported 76 and 96 new coronavirus cases respectively, according to POLITICO. This week, the county broke its new case record Monday with 261 cases and reported a further 206 cases on Tuesday. Now, Tulsa's top public health official thinks the rally and counterprotest "likely contributed" to the surge.

Read More Show Less

Trending

In the tropics, farmers often slash and burn forests to clear fertile land for crops, but a new method avoids that technique. Inga Foundation video

Rainforests are an important defense against climate change because they absorb carbon. But many are being destroyed on a massive scale.

Read More Show Less