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Restaurant owner, parent company plead guilty in sale of whale meat

Parent company and owner of Santa Monica restaurant that sold whale pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges

The parent company and owner of a Santa Monica restaurant pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges stemming from serving meat from the endangered Sei whale to undercover investigators in 2009 and 2010.

Typhoon Restaurant Inc. and owner Brian Vidor each pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sale of a marine mammal at the now-closed restaurant The Hump at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport.

As part of the plea, Vidor admitted that he was aware his sushi chefs, who have previously pleaded guilty, were serving whale at the restaurant and allowed it.

Typhoon and Vidor will jointly pay a $27,500 fine and will be placed on 18-month and 12-month terms of probation, respectively, if the terms of the plea agreements are accepted by Judge Dale S. Fischer.

Chefs Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda pleaded guilty earlier this year to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and the sale of marine mammals in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but they have yet to be sentenced.

The supplier of the whale meat, Ginichi Ohira, has also pleaded guilty.

Authorities launched an investigation into The Hump, known to specialize in exotic seafood items, after producers behind the documentary "The Cove" secretly filmed whale meat being served at the restaurant.

In 2010, with undercover agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seated around the sushi bar, Yamamoto left through the back door holding his car keys and then returned with a package wrapped in plastic.

He then served pieces of meat, telling customers in a hushed voice that it was whale, according to an affidavit in the case.

Typhoon and Vidor are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 23. 

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