Lumber Liquidators pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to using illegally harvested and imported timber for hardwood flooring and was ordered to pay $13.15 million in fines and other costs.
The Toano-based company was accused of using wood from eastern Russia, which the government argued was illegally harvested because it threatened the habitat of the last remaining Siberian tigers and Amur leopards.
“Today was an important day for domestic and international conservation,” Patrick Duggan, a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, said outside the federal courthouse in Norfolk. “Lumber Liquidators knew of their duty to comply and failed to comply with the Lacy Act.”
The Lacy Act prohibits the importation of illegally harvested timber into the U.S.
Lumber Liquidators pleaded guilty to one count of felony entry of goods by means of false statements, three misdemeanor counts of transport of illegally imported timber and a misdemeanor count of import of illegally harvested timber. The $13.15 million assessed against the company includes a $7.8 million fine, a $969,175 forfeiture payment and $1.23 million in community service payments to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund.
There are only an estimated 450 Siberian tigers and 57 Amur leopards remaining in the wild, and the illegal logging threatened their habitat, according to the statement of facts.
Of the fines, $4 million will be due at sentencing, $2 million will be due 12 months from the sentencing hearing, and the remainder must be paid within two years of sentencing, according to the plea agreement.
The company issued the following statement after the hearing: “Lumber Liquidators is pleased to put this legacy behind us. We remain focused on our business and are committed to providing our customers with quality flooring at the best price.”
Between 2011 and 2013, the company imported more than 100 orders of oak flooring, according to the statement of facts. The oak was purchased from a company in China, who filled out forms that indicated the oak was from Germany. That false information is the basis for the felony entry of goods by means of false statements charge.
Lumber Liquidators failed to enforce its requirement that required the company in China to provide “accurate documentation proving the species of timber, location of harvest, legality of harvest, or the chain-of-custody…” according to the statement of fact. “Mongolian oak does not occur in Germany, but is the only type of oak harvested in Far East Russia.”
Sentencing is scheduled for February.
Speed can be reached by phone at 247-4778.