Utah-based Young Living Essential Oils pays $760,000 for illegal oil imports

Young Living Essential Oils will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for illegally trafficking wood oil from overseas, a federal judge ruled Monday.

The company was sentenced to pay $760,000 as part of a plea agreement, after it conducted an internal investigation and voluntarily reported its own illegal activity to the government.

The company, headquartered in Lehi, admitted in court that it had trafficked rosewood oil and spikenard oil without permits, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The company didn‘t live up to our standards in this instance,” the company said in a statement this week. “For that, we apologize and promise to do better.”

Young Living lacked internal procedures to successfully review and resolve potential problems and violations, the DOJ release said.

The company says it has implemented a new compliance program that has been reviewed and accepted by the government to “ensure its plants come from legal and sustainable sources.”

The plea agreement in the case discloses that from June 2010 to October 2014, several company employees and contractors harvested, transported and distilled about 86 tons of protected rosewood (commonly referred to as Brazilian rosewood) in Peru and imported some of the resulting oil into the United States through Ecuador. Peruvian law prohibits harvesting and exporting timber, including rosewood, the release said.

The error came to Young Living’s attention at the end of 2014, the company stated, and after it hired outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation, it turned the information over to federal authorities in July 2015.

The federal investigation also revealed that between November 2014 to January 2016, Young Living purchased more than 1,100 kilograms of rosewood oil from a supplier and importer in the United States without verifying the lawful sourcing of that oil, the release said.

The company also illegally exported spikenard oil harvested in Napal to the United Kingdom without a permit in December 2015. Months later, a company employee filed an application for a shipment permit after the fact.

The government calculates the fair market retail value of the plant products (about 1,899.75 liters of rosewood oil) involved in the violations to be between $3.5 million and $9 million.

As part of a plea agreement, the essential oils company was sentenced to pay $500,000 in fines, $135,000 in restitution and $125,000 as a “community service payment” for the conservation of protected species of plants used in essential oils.

Additionally, the company will serve five years’ probation with special conditions, including the implementation of the corporate compliance plan, audits and the publication of statements regarding its convictions.

“While the natural resource violations by certain employees of Young Living were intentional and substantial, the company’s decision to conduct an internal investigation, voluntarily disclose the initial violations to government enforcement authorities and cooperate throughout the ensuing investigation is to be commended,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah said in the release. “This sentence reflects both the seriousness of the offenses and the acceptance of responsibility and cooperation by the company.”