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The Hump: Feds Indict SaMo Restaurant, Chefs for Serving Whale Meat

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Remember when Santa Monica's The Hump restaurant was busted for serving up whale meat? While the expose happened in 2010, and the restaurant closed soon after, the story has resurfaced now as the litigation moves forward.

A federal grand jury has returned a nine-count indictment charging the parent company of The Hump, Typhoon Restaurant, Inc., and two area chefs, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 48, of Culver City and Susumu Ueda, 39, of Lawndale, for selling meat from Sei whales, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the Department of Justice.

The chefs are accused of ordering the whale meat from Ginichi Ohira, a Japanese citizen in the U.S., who had already been in trouble with authorities for selling a marine mammal product. Ohira then allegedly made a phony invoice noting the meat was "fatty tuna" and delivered the product to The Hump at the Santa Monica Airport. The conspiracy went on from 2007 until 2010 when the restaurant was busted.

Informants posing as customers were served the whale sushi, which they had DNA tested to determine the animal of origin.

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On top of charges of conspiracy, the restaurant and Yamamoto are charged with smuggling, as well as the sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose. Chef Yamamoto is also on the hook for telling other chefs at The Hump to lie about the whale meat, while Chef Ueda is also charged with making a false statement to federal investigators about the source of the whale meat.

If convicted, The Hump's parent company would face fines of $1.2 million, while Yamamoto would face a statutory maximum penalty of 67 years in federal prison, and Ueda would face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years.