Santa Monica's late Hump restaurant and two of its sushi chefs were accused by a federal grand jury of selling endangered Sei whale meat, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles announced this afternoon.
The jury's nine-count federal indictment names parent company Typhoon Restaurant, Inc., as well as sushi chefs Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 48, and Susumu Ueda, 39.
According to a U.S. Attorney's statement, the defendants allegedly conspired …
… to import and sell whale meat, specifically meat from Sei whales, which are listed as an endangered species.
The restaurant apologized and then closed its doors in spring, 2010.
Feds say Ginichi Ohira supplied the whale meat, invoicing it as fatty tuna. He has already pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charge of “illegally selling a marine mammal product,” prosecutors said.
The parent company, Yamamoto, and Ueda were hit with these counts, according to the U.S. Attorney's statement:
The Hump is charged with smuggling and Yamamoto is charged with two counts of smuggling.
The Hump is also charged with a misdemeanor count of the sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose, and Yamamoto is charged with two misdemeanor counts of sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose.
Yamamoto is additionally charged with obstructing an official proceeding. Contained in that charges is an allegation that Yamamoto instructed other sushi chefs at The Hump to lie about the source of the whale meat.
Ueda is additionally charged with making a false statement to federal investigators about the source of the whale meat.
The chefs and the parent company were due in court in the next few weeks, officials said.
If convicted Yamamoto could see 67 years behind bars, prosecutors said; Ueda could face 10 years; and Typhoon could be fined $1.2 million.
Yamamoto would face a statutory maximum penalty of 67 years in federal prison, and Ueda would face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years.