Importer pays $500,000 fine for false claims to evade customs duties.

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Earlier in February of this year, the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs released news of a settlement by Home Furnishings Resource Group Inc. agreement to pay $500,000 in settlement for False Claims Act allegations.

Background:
Home Furnishings Resource Group Inc. (HFRG) agreed to pay the $500,000 after they were alleged to have violated the False Claims Act on customs declarations in order to avoid paying antidumping duties (ADD) on “wooden bedroom furniture” imported from China.

Customs alleged the Hermitage, Tennessee company did not pay antidumping duties from 2009 to 2014 by misclassifying furniture as “non-bedroom” on import documents. By misclassifying as “non-bedroom”, HFRG did not pay the required ADD on wooden-bedroom furniture.

Why do we have antidumping duties?
Antidumping duties protect American manufacturers against foreign companies who make the same goods at a price below cost and “dump” the products into the US. The Department of Commerce (Commerce) is responsible for assessing whether goods are dumped into the US – and if so, assign an ADD amount to those imported goods.

The addition of a duty for these goods is to protect U.S. businesses and “level the playing field for domestic companies”.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) then collects these duties – wooden bedroom furntiure’s ADD rate was 216% and non-bedroom furniture was not subject to any duty.

How was HFRG caught?
University Loft Company, a competitor of HFRG, used the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, permitting private parties to sue on behalf of the US against those who falsely claim federal funds or, as in this case, who avoid paying funds owed to the government. The act also allows the whistleblower to receive a share of any funds recovered. University Loft Company will receive approximately $75,000.

Do you know anyone violating the False Claims Act?
If you believe an importer has been misclassifying goods to avoid payment of duties, contact David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.

Bassett Mirror Company to pay $10.5 million for allegations of evading customs duties.

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According to a January 16, 2018 Department of Justice press release – Virginia based home furniture company, Bassett Mirror Company (Bassett) will pay $10.5 million to resolve allegations that Bassett violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by “knowingly making false statements on customs declarations to avoid paying antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture imported from the People’s Republic of China (PRC)”.

Wooden bedroom furniture from the People’s Republic Of China is covered under case number: A-570-890 and the scope includes:


The product covered by the order is wooden bedroom furniture. Wooden bedroom furniture is generally, but not exclusively, designed, manufactured, and offered for sale in coordinated groups, or bedrooms, in which all of the individual pieces are of approximately the same style and approximately the same material and/or finish. The subject merchandise is made substantially of wood products, including both solid wood and also engineered wood products made from wood particles, fibers, or other wooden materials such as plywood, oriented strand board, particle board, and fiberboard, with or without wood veneers, wood overlays, or laminates, with or without non-wood components or trim such as metal, marble, leather, glass, plastic, or other resins, and whether or not assembled, completed, or finished.

Since 2004, imports of wooden beddroom furniture from China have been subject to dumping duties and the current PRC rate is 216 percent.

The US Department of Justice alleged that for a five year period (2009 to 2014), Bassett evaded payment of antidumping duties owed by misclassifying the furniture as non-bedroom furniture on import documents. By classifying imports as “non-bedroom furniture”, Bassett avoiding paying the duty rate of 216%.

In general, antidumping duties are imposed against foreign companies for “dumping” products into the US market at prices below cost. Most of the foreign companies are located in “non market economy” countries such as People’s Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. By imposing anti dumping duties on goods, the US Department of Commerce is attempting to protect US businesses and “level the playing field” for domestically manufactured products.

Given the current administration in the White House, we can expect the Department of Justice, CBP, and Commerce to further strengthen their enforcement of antidumping duties for any and all goods entering the US.

If you are not sure whether your imports from China are considered “wooden bedroom furniture, or if you have been alleged to violate the false claims act by misclassifying imports, avoiding payment of duties or any other import and export related claim from the US government, contact David Hsu at 832.896.6288 or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com immediately. There is no cost for the initial consultation and in most instances, time limits to take action are running – don’t miss your chance, contact us today.

Z Gallerie Settles False Claims Act Case.

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Z Gallerie LLC Settles False Claims Act Case of Alleged Customs Duties Evasion for $15 Million

In April of 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Z Gallerie LLC agreed to pay $15 million to resolve allegations that Z Gallerie tried to evade customs duties on imports of wooden bedroom furniture from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The California based company is headquartered in Los Angeles and sells furniture and accessories in stores across the United States.

The allegations claim Z Gallerie evaded antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture imported from the PRC by misclassifying, or conspiring with others to misclassify, the imported furniture as pieces intended for non-bedroom use on documents filed with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). For example, furniture used in the bedroom were misclassified as “grand chests” and “hall chests” in order to avoid antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture.

The purpose of antidumping duties is to protect domestic manufacturers against overseas companies “dumping” goods in the U.S. market at prices below cost. Since 2004, imports of wooden bedroom furniture manufactured in China have been subject to antidumping duties.

Importers of wooden bedroom furniture should be aware that under the new Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, CBP will be increasing their enforcement of antidumping evasion schemes.

It is important to note that the settlement by Z Gallerie LLC were for allegations only and there were no determinations of liability.

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