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Chefs plead guilty to serving whale meat at Santa Monica restaurant

Chefs plead guilty to serving whale meat at Santa Monica restaurant
Two sushi chefs who formerly worked at the Hump Restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport pleaded guilty Monday to charges relating to serving whale meat. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Two sushi chefs who served whale meat at a now-shuttered Santa Monica restaurant pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor charges for their part in a scheme to import and sell cuts of whale including tail meat and "whale bacon."

Chefs Susumu Ueda and Kiyoshiro Yamamoto were indicted in early 2013 along with Typhoon Restaurant Inc., the parent company of the restaurant the Hump. The restaurant closed in 2010 after a sting operation involving an associate producer of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” revealed that whale was being served off-menu to customers.

Whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the importing or sale of whale meat.

Ueda, the head sushi chef, and Yamamoto each face a maximum of three years in prison for the charges. Prosecutors said they would also recommend a $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service.
They are cooperating with the government and could be called to testify in the trial against the restaurant, set to begin in April. The supplier of the whale meat, Ginichi Ohira, pleaded guilty in 2011 and has yet to be sentenced.

In their plea agreements, the two chefs named the restaurant's owner Brian Vidor and manager Chris Schaefer, neither of whom has been charged, as being part of the conspiracy to sell whale meat.

Ueda admitted to ordering several pounds of whale meat from Ohira in 2007 with approval from Vidor and Schaefer. Ohira in turn contacted his supplier in Japan, and delivered about three kilograms of whale akami (red meat), about two kilograms of whale bacon, and about two kilograms of whale onomi (tail), according to the plea.
The restaurant paid $15,367.75 for the order totaling about 11 pounds, according to the plea.
Yamamoto admitted to serving pieces of whale meat on two occasions to “confidential informants posing as customers” in February and March 010. 

Twitter: @vicjkim

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