Home Furnishings Resource Group (HFRG) agreed to pay $500,000 as part of a settlement to resolve allegations it violated the False Claims Act by making false customs declarations to avoid paying antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture from China, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The Hermitage, Tenn.-based company, which also operates under the name Function First Furniture, imports, among other things, bedroom furniture sold for use in university student housing, DOJ said.
In a lawsuit filed in the Western District of Texas under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, University Loft Company, an HFRG competitor, had alleged that HFRG evaded anti-dumping (AD) duties on wooden bedroom furniture that it imported from 2009 to 2014, by misclassifying the furniture as non-bedroom furniture on official import documents.
That statute allows private parties to sue on behalf of the U.S. those who falsely claim federal funds or avoid making payments owed to the government, and it also allows the whistleblower to get a share of any funds recovered. University Loft will get about $75,000 in association with HFRC’s settlement.
At the time of the alleged evasion, wooden bedroom furniture from China was subject to a 216 percent AD duty, while non-bedroom furniture wasn’t subject to AD duties, DOJ noted.
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