Indictments in California say sushi contained whale

A federal grand jury has returned a nine-count indictment that charges a now-shuttered Santa Monica sushi restaurant and two men who worked there as chefs with selling meat from sei whales, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The indictment charges: Typhoon Restaurant, Inc., which is the parent company of the now-closed The Hump Restaurant, which was located at the Santa Monica Airport;

Also charged are Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 48, of Culver City; and Susumu Ueda, 39, of Lawndale.

The indictment accuses the three defendants of conspiring to import and sell whale meat, specifically meat from sei whales, which are listed as an endangered species.

Yamamoto and Ueda ordered the whale meat from Ginichi Ohira, a Japanese national who previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally selling a marine mammal product, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. 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, according to the indictment that describes a conspiracy that lasted from 2007 into 2010.

According to the indictment and documents previously filed in this matter, The Hump sold whale sushi to informants posing as customers on three specific occasions in the fall of 2009 and in early 2010, said the U.S. Attorney’ Office.

The meat sold as whale on two of the occasions was examined by scientists, who tested the DNA of the meat and determined it was sei whale, and receipts given to the informants who went to The Hump indicated that they had purchased “whale,” according to an affidavit previously filed, the office said.

It is illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the United States. Sei whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and they are listed as endangered in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, The Hump is charged with smuggling and Yamamoto is charged with two counts of smuggling, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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