LOS ANGELES – The Hump Restaurant in Santa Monica illegally sold sushi made from endangered whales and passed it off as tuna, federal prosecutors say.
The seven-county grand jury indictment was handed down against Typhoon Restaurant Inc., corporate parent of The Hump, which operated at the Santa Monica Airport; and sushi chefs Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 48, of Culver City; and Susumu Ueda, 39, of Lawndale.
The Hump has been closed.
Prosecutors said that Yamamoto and Ueda ordered whale meat from Japanese national Ginichi Ohara, who has pleaded to selling meat from endangered and protected Sei whales.
“Once Ohira received the whale meat in the United States, he prepared an invoice that incorrectly described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered the whale meat to The Hump,” prosecutors said in a statement. They claimed the conspiracy lasted from 2007 into 2010.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy, smuggling, obstructing an official proceeding (Yamamoto only), unlawful sale of the whale meat, and violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
If convicted of all charges, Yamamoto faces up to 67 years in fe3deral prison and Ueda 10 years.
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