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BOSTON – Yogibo, a New Hampshire-based furniture seller, has agreed to pay $217,832 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by failing to pay customs duties on imports from China.
Customs laws require importers to pay duties on the price paid for imported goods, including the cost of quality control testing, product design services, foreign inland freight and more.
Between 2016 and 2022, Yogibo imported goods from a Chinese manufacturer, Leadershow Home Textile Co., Ltd (Leadershow). For each shipment, Leadershow provided Yogibo with two invoices: a commercial invoice listing one price for the goods being imported; and a second invoice (which Yogibo called the “QC Invoice”) that included a separate and additional charge for inland freight from Leadershow to a Chinese port, design services and quality control testing. Yogibo did not provide the QC Invoice to its customs broker for determining duties owed to the United States government on Leadershow imports and instead, only provided the commercial invoice with the lower total price. As a result, the customs broker did not calculate the duties owed based the total cost of the goods, including the additional charges on the QC Invoice.
Under the Department of Justice’s guidelines for taking disclosure, cooperation and remediation into account in False Claims Act cases, the Department of Justice credited Yogibo’s cooperation in this matter.
“Customs laws are intended to, among other things, protect domestic companies from unfair competition,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “Our office will deploy the False Claims Act to go after anyone who cheats the system and defrauds the federal government.”
“U.S. Customs & Border Protection is responsible for facilitating lawful international trade while regulating and enforcing hundreds of laws from dozens of federal agencies. Submission of false invoices on imported goods is a serious matter. This scheme involves entities importing goods without paying the U.S. Government the lawful amount of duties owed, creating an unfair advantage over law-abiding American businesses. I am glad that we were able to work with our federal partners to reach a satisfactory settlement to recover these funds,” said Michael McCarthy, Acting Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Boston Field Office.
“Customs fraud is a serious allegation. Yogibo used a system of dual invoicing to circumvent requirements for establishing the proper duty. HSI takes undervaluing products imported into the United States seriously and will continue to protect the integrity of the False Claims Act through the aggressive enforcement of our customs laws,” said Michael J. Krol, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England.
The settlement stems from allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private parties, known as relators, to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery. In connection with today’s announced settlement, the relator will receive 20 percent of the recovery.
Acting U.S. Attorney Levy, CBP Acting Director McCarthy and HSI Acting SAC Krol made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. LaMacchia of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit handled the matter.