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Environmental Concerns Prompted Lumber Liquidators Raid

Last month’s raid on Lumber Liquidators by federal authorities was prompted by an environmental activist group’s research, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency spent three years collecting what it says is evidence the Lumber Liquidators knowingly bought millions of square feet of oak and birch wood that originated in protected forests in far eastern Russia through a Chinese-owned supplier.

The environmental group said it provided its findings to federal authorities ahead of the government raid. Its report is available as a PDF here.

Lumber Liquidators’ headquarters in Toano, Va., and another location in Richmond were raided last month by special agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department.

The agents were looking for evidence the company had imported wood products from forests in far eastern Russia that are home to the endangered Siberian tiger, a person familiar with the matter said.

Such evidence could help demonstrate violations of the Lacey Act, a federal conservation statute that makes it illegal to import or sell fish, wildlife or plants if it violates state or foreign law. The act—which carries criminal penalties of up to $500,000 per violation—was amended in 2008 to include wood types to curb illegal logging.

Lumber Liquidators confirmed the federal investigation involved imports of wood flooring products but declined to elaborate.

A Lumber Liquidators spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company hadn’t seen the report from the Environmental Investigations Agency so it couldn’t comment on its contents.

The hardwood retailer “has policies and procedures in place for the sourcing, harvesting and manufacturing of all its products, monitored by professionals located around the world,” spokeswoman Leigh Parrish said. “The company invests significant time and resources to safeguard quality control and compliance.”

About Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell was an assistant editor of Hardware Retailing and NRHA. Amanda regularly visited with home improvement retailers across the country and attended industry events and seminars. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Ball State University and has received honors for her work for Hardware Retailing from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

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