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Lumber Liquidators pleaded guilty Thursday to importing hardwood flooring that had been illegally logged in the world’s only habitat for Siberian tigers and Amur leopards.
The plea agreement calls for Toano-based Lumber Liquidators to pay $13.15 million, the largest penalty ever levied for timber trafficking under the Lacey Act, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The penalty includes $7.8 million in criminal fines, nearly $970,000 in criminal forfeiture, more than $1.23 million in community service payments and more than $3.15 million in cash through a related civil forfeiture. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the USFWS Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund will receive the community service payments.
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 1.
Lumber Liquidators, located in Upper James City County, entered its plea for one felony count of importing goods through false statements and four misdemeanor Lacey Act violations in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Norfolk.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that prohibits the importation of timber taken in violation of foreign laws and the international transportation of falsely labeled timber. Lumber Liquidators was accused of using timber illegally logged in Far East Russia and concealing the timber’s source.
“Lumber Liquidators’ race to profit resulted in the plundering of forests and wildlife habitat that, if continued, could spell the end of the Siberian tiger,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The Justice Department accused Lumber Liquidators of ignoring “self-identified red flags,” such as importing from high-risk countries and species, suppliers who did not have proper identification and provided false information about products.
The news release states Lumber Liquidators employees were aware timber from Far East Russia was considered to be at high-risk of being illegally sourced.
“Lumber Liquidators knew it had a duty to follow the law, and instead it flouted the letter and spirit of the Lacey Act, ignoring its own red flags that its products likely came from illegally harvested timber, all at the expense of law abiding competitors,” Cruden said.