Two Inglewood marine life companies pleaded guilty in federal court this week to illegally importing live coral from Vietnam, prosecutors said.
Renaissance Aquatics Inc. and Lim Aqua-Nautic Specialist Inc. each pleaded guilty to two counts of illegally importing coral between 2012 and 2013.
Renaissance Aquatics operated as a live animal retailer and was an agent for Lim Aqua-Nautic, a wildlife wholesaler.
“The companies imported marine life from foreign suppliers and then sold and shipped marine life in and out of the United States,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release Wednesday. “Both companies were located in the same office building in Inglewood.”
Renaissance employees placed orders for specimens, including coral, with foreign suppliers, while Aqua-Nautic made payments, picked up orders from Los Angeles International Airport and stored them, prosecutors said.
The orders, which Renaissance imported from a Vietnamese supplier, contained live stony corals, which are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) but can be legally imported provided certain declarations and identification are made in the US Fish and wildlife services are undertaken.
“Renaissance has neither declared the live hard corals in the shipments from Vietnam nor provided the necessary CITES documents for them,” prosecutors said. “Renaissance caused its customs agent to submit a misrepresentation to the USFWS [document] who intentionally omitted live hard corals and gave inaccurate prices.”
In addition, the shipments themselves were packaged in such a way that the corals were hidden under properly declared wildlife.
From May 2012 to March 2013, Renaissance illegally imported at least eight such shipments.
The two companies are due to be sentenced in November; each faces a five-year suspended sentence and a $1 million fine.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-13/inglewood-companies-plead-guilty-to-illegally-importing-live-corals 2 Inglewood companies plead guilty to illegally importing live corals