Tacoma company pleads guilty for false declarations on timber imports
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An importer and seller of various home goods including wooden kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities pled guilty of importing timber harvested and produced in China that were declared as a false species of wood harvested in Malaysia.

TACOMA, Washington — Tip the Scale LLC, of Tacoma, pleaded guilty and was sentenced June 14 for making false declarations regarding the species and harvest location of timber used in wooden cabinets and vanities.

Tip the Scale, doing business as L & D Kitchen and Bath, is an importer and seller of various home goods including wooden kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities. According to court documents, between January and May of 2020, Tip the Scale imported five shipping containers of wooden cabinets and vanities, all of which were falsely declared. The products, which were harvested and produced in China, were declared as a false species of wood harvested in Malaysia. By doing so, Tip the Scale evaded oversight of Chinese-harvested timber and more than $850,000 in import duties.

Timber under transport in China. Photo by Environmental Investigation Agency 

The Lacey Act requires that importers of wood products file a declaration which describes the scientific genus and species as well as the harvest country of imports that contain timber. These declarations help stem the flow of protected, illegally logged or misdeclared timber species into the United States. Tip the Scale pleaded guilty to a single felony count of importing goods by means of false statements.

The company was sentenced to pay $360,000 in fines and serve three years of probation. During probation, Tip the Scale is required to implement a mandatory environmental compliance plan audited by a third party. Prior to the sentencing, the company paid more than $850,000 in outstanding duties. The cabinets and vanities were seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and donated to a local branch of Habitat for Humanity.

“The United States was the first nation to criminalize transnational trafficking of plants and plant products, which includes home goods made with wood,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Enforcing the Lacey Act is our best tool in combatting timber trafficking.”

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that companies will be held accountable for violating environmental laws and deceiving customs authorities,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in the Pacific Northwest. “By falsifying import documentation, L&D Kitchen and Bath sought to gain an unfair advantage over competitors and evaded important environmental protections. We are committed to working with our partners to detect and deter such deceptive practices, ensuring that all companies adhere to the law.”

“Illegal timber trafficking threatens not only critical forest ecosystems that countless species rely on, but also undermines the legitimate timber trade in U.S. and international markets,” said Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to stopping transnational criminal enterprises and maintaining the integrity of the legal timber trade.”

“Customs and Border Protection is proud to work with all of our law enforcement partners to deliver appropriate consequences to those who violate the laws of our country,” said Director of Field Operations Brian Humphrey of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Seattle Field Office.


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).