Three years ago, a Santa Monica Airport restaurant known as The Hump was caught serving illegal whale meat in an undercover sting operation.The restaurant was closed, and the two chefs and parent company seemed to get away with only slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanours that were soon dismissed by federal prosecutors. But the story wasn’t over.
Now, a federal grand jury has indicted the owners and two chefs with nine counts of conspiracy and smuggling felony charges. If convicted, chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto could face 67 years in prison, and the restaurant’s parent company could face a $1.2 million fine, according to a report in the LA Times.
The second chef could get 10 years if convicted.
The original charges were levied after a sting operation led by rock singer Zoli Teglas and the documentarians of The Cover, which exposed dolphin hunting in Japan.
A waitress at The Hunt described a dish as containing “whale,” and the meat was then analysed in a lab and determined to be the endangered Sei whale meat. Sei whales are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
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