Tacoma Company Pleads Guilty and Sentenced for False Declarations on Timber Imports

Tip the Scale LLC, of Tacoma, Washington, pleaded guilty and was sentenced today 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.

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.

HSI Seattle and the USFW Office of Law Enforcement investigated the case. The USFWS National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory conducted forensic testing. CBP also assisted with the case.

Senior Trial Attorney Patrick M. Duggan of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case.