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I-Team: Lumber Liquidators fined millions

Posted at 6:34 PM, Feb 01, 2016
A controversial hardwood flooring company owes millions of dollars in fines.
 
Lumber Liquidators has been in the national spotlight after customers complained of high levels of formaldehyde in their floors.
 
Justice Department officials say it's their biggest fine for illegal timber trafficking.
 
Lumber Liquidators pleaded guilty last October to environmental crimes associated with the Lacey Act.
 
Investigators are giving some credit to the Environmental Investigation Agency or EIA, a nonprofit watchdog group in Washington D.C.
 
“This historic criminal sentence against a major U.S. company in relation to the Lacey Act is setting an important precedent: Illegal wood is no longer tolerated in the United States," EIA Executive Director Alexander von Bismarck told ABC Action News in a statement. "U.S. consumers need to be protected from unknowingly supporting organized crime and the destruction of the world’s last virgin forests. The real cost to the company will come from having to forego cheap, stolen wood in its supply chain while the Department of Justice looks over its shoulder.”
    
The I-Team got an exclusive copy of their investigation video. You can click on the video and see images that have never been made public until now.
 
EIA spent more than five years undercover exposing illegal logging.  
 
The group says it traced moves from manufacturers, including Lumber Liquidators.
 
Their investigators tell us they also traced Lumber Liquidators wood being harvested illegally in Russia's far east – in the habitat of the last remaining Siberian tigers.
 
They tell us the wood is cut in Russia. From there the wood is shipped to China, where factory workers make the actual flooring product.
 
Investigators at EIA have been sharing their information and findings with federal law enforcement.
 
Lumber liquidators will have to pay $13.2 million in fines.
 
We're told at least some will be handed out to different environmental groups. Lumber Liquidators sent us the the following statement:
 
"Lumber Liquidators is pleased to put this legacy issue behind us.  This matter was concluded consistent with our prior disclosures.  We remain focused on our business and are committed to providing our customers with quality flooring at the best price."
 
The company still faces major class action lawsuits after customers claim they had high levels of formaldehyde in their flooring products.
 
The Clearwater lab distributing the company's air quality testing kits, Pure Air Control Services, is also being sued. As part of the five-year probation plan, Lumber Liquidators will have to come up with an environmental compliance plan within three months.