April 29, 2015 — The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into Lumber Liquidators for selling illegally-harvested wood in violation of the Lacey Act.
According to a regulatory filing, sealed search warrants were executed by agents from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the company’s corporate offices in Virginia on September 26, 2013.
Investigators were looking for information and documents related to the importation of certain wood flooring products. “In recent communications, the DOJ indicated that it is seeking criminal charges under the Lacey Act,” the company said.
The Lacey Act is a law that was enacted in 1900 to ban illegal trafficking in wildlife, and carries criminal penalties of up to $500,000 per violation. The law was broadened in 2008 to ban illegally-logged wood.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the raid may have bene prompted by a report from the Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-profit based in Washington.
Environmental investigators spent three years trying to prove that Lumber Liquidators knew they bought millions of square feet of oak and birch wood through a Chinese-owned supplier. The wood allegedly originated in protected forests in Russia’s far east, home of the endangered Siberian tiger.
Investigators traveled to the Russian sawmills of Xingjia, a longtime supplier for Lumber Liquidators. The investigators posed as buyers and secretly videotaped conversations with executives at Xingjia who were “open about their extensive use of illegal logging to provide Western retailers with cheap quality wood products.”