Two chefs at a former Santa Monica Airport sushi restaurant could face a possible maximum sentence of three years in prison plus fines if found guilty of importing and selling meat from federally protected sei whales.
According to reports, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 49, and Susumu Ueda, 40, made their initial Los Angeles federal court appearance Wednesday, but did not enter guilty pleas.
The pair were initially charged in early 2010, but the charges were dropped, later refiled and revised last month, according to reports.
The sale of Sei whale — an endangered species — is prohibited in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles in January 2013 indicted Typhoon Restaurant, Inc. — the parent company of The Hump restaurant that was located at Santa Monica Airport — and its two chefs Yamamoto and Ueda on nine counts. At that time, charges included conspiracy to import and sell meat from the endangered sei whale and lying to federal investigators.
The Hump closed in 2010 — 10 days after the federal charges were first filed.
At the time of the closure, a statement on The Hump’s website read, “The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species.”
The Hump sold whale sushi to customers on three occasions, according to the criminal complaint filed against the restaurant, some straight from the trunk of a Mercedes.
Federal agents and activists cooperated in a sting that filmed a waitress serving eight pieces what she called “whale,” according to the affidavit provided by the U.S. attorney’s office.