Blaine, Washington, auto broker settles allegations it undervalued light trucks from Canada to avoid higher import duties
Seattle - A Florida-based corporation that manufactures, imports, and distributes products used in residential and commercial construction has agreed to pay the United States $160,933 to resolve allegations that it imported roofing underlayment product manufactured in China without country of origin markings, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. The United States alleges that between December 2017 and July 2019, Gardner-Gibson, Inc., violated customs laws by importing products that did not bear any mark indicating to the ultimate purchaser in the United States the country of origin of the article.
“It is important that all U.S. businesses have a fair playing field,” said U.S. Attorney Moran. “This case began with a relator alerting the government to the unlawful conduct, helping the government police the import marketplace to ensure fairness.”
The settlement with Gardner-Gibson resolves a lawsuit filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act permits a private individual, called a relator, to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The relator in this case alleged that Gardner-Gibson violated the False Claims Act by evading customs duties owed to the United States as a result of Gardner-Gibson’s knowing failure to mark properly imported products with their country of origin. The relator will receive approximately 20% of the $160,933 settlement. Gardner-Gibson will also pay the relator’s attorney fees of more than $40,000.
The resolution in this matter is the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.
The settlement was negotiated by Assistant United States Attorney Ashley Burns. The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. The lawsuit is captioned United States of America ex rel. Aylwin v. Gardner-Gibson, Inc., No. 18-CV-1487-RAJ.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.