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Lehi company pleads guilty to trafficking oils from endangered plants

Lehi company pleads guilty to trafficking oils from endangered plants

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Lehi-based essential oils company pleaded guilty Monday to illegally trafficking therapeutic oils from Peru and Nepal.

The plea deal requires Young Living Essential Oils to fork over $760,000 and develop a plan to track compliance, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The company reported its own missteps to the government after hiring an outside investigator in 2015. The probe found that the company exported rosewood oil from Peru and spikenard oil from Nepal without the proper permits for harvesting plants deemed endangered.

A spokeswoman for Young Living said the company didn’t live up to its standards and has since overhauled its compliance program to prevent future mistakes and honor federal law. She said the company learned about a situation identified by its compliance program in 2014 and immediately began the probe.

"Young Living understands that it has a greater responsibility to help ensure quality and continuous improvement in leading the essential oils movement," spokeswoman Andrea Neipp said in a statement.

The investigation revealed the company illegally bought oil that came from Nepal via the United Kingdom. Young Living was unsatisfied with the product and sent it back, then applied for a permit after the fact.

"Between 2010 and 2014, a few company employees harvested, transported and possessed a total of approximately 86 tons of rosewood, all of which was harvested in violation of Peruvian law," according to the statement.

The company bought other shipments without verifying whether they were legally sourced, according to the deal.

The retail value of the plant products was estimated to be somewhere between $3.5 million and $9 million, according to the Justice Department.

Young Living was ordered to pay $500,000 in fines, $135,000 in restitution and $125,000 for the conservation of protected species of plants used in essential oils. The company also will be on probation for five years.

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Annie Knox


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