Whistleblower Case Ends in $798K Settlement for Homestar North America



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In a recent development, Homestar North America, LLC has reached a settlement to pay a substantial sum of $798,334. This decision comes as a resolution to accusations stating that the company reportedly undervalued the cost of imported furniture from China, leading to a shortfall in customs duties.

Damien M. Diggs, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, shared this news on December 13. It’s important to note that these are just allegations, and no formal liability has been established in this case.

The core of these allegations involves both Homestar North America, LLC and its parent company, Homestar Corporation. The accusation is that they worked together to report lower values for goods shipped to the United States. This practice allegedly began following the implementation of increased Section 301 tariffs on certain Chinese products, with the hikes introduced on September 24, 2018, and June 15, 2019.

According to the government, from September 2018 to December 2022, Homestar North America, LLC was involved in submitting falsified invoices to the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These invoices reportedly understated the value of goods received from its Chinese parent company, Homestar Corporation. This was supposedly a strategy to evade the higher duties imposed. The government suggests that while these incorrect invoices were given to CBP, another set of invoices, reflecting the true value of the imported goods, were used internally to ensure correct payments to the parent company.

This act of false invoicing is believed to have led to an undervaluation of the imported goods, causing a loss of revenue to the United States. Diggs emphasized the importance of compliance with import laws in the U.S., highlighting the need for companies to declare the actual value of imported goods and to fulfill their duty obligations. He pointed out that Homestar’s actions were a choice to prioritize profit over legal compliance.

Gregory Alvarez, the Director of the CBP Atlanta Field Office, highlighted the extensive investigative work undertaken. This included a thorough review of numerous documents, entry summaries, and financial reports provided by Homestar, focusing on the allegations of undervaluation and duty evasion.

The settlement also brings to light the role of whistleblowers in such cases. This case was initially brought forward under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows individuals to file actions on behalf of the U.S. government. The whistleblower in this case is set to receive around $151,683 as part of the settlement resolution.

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