Two Inglewood wildlife 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 felony counts of illegally importing the 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 inside and outside the United States,” the US law firm for the Central District of California said in a press release Wednesday. “Both companies were located in the same commercial building in Inglewood.”
Renaissance workers placed orders from foreign suppliers for specimens, including coral, while Aqua-Nautic took care of payments, collected the orders from Los Angeles International Airport and stored them, prosecutors said.
The orders that Renaissance imported with orders from a Vietnamese supplier included live stony corals, which are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) but can be legally imported if certain statements and identifications are made to the U.S. Fish and Game Service.
“Renaissance has not declared the live stony corals in the shipments from Vietnam, nor has it provided the required CITES documentation for them,” prosecutors said. “Renaissance caused its customs agent to deliver a misleading [document] who deliberately omitted the live stony corals and listed inaccurate prices.”
In addition, the shipments were self-packaged to hide the corals among properly marked wildlife.
From May 2012 to March 2013, Renaissance illegally imported at least eight such shipments.
The two companies will be sentenced in November; each faces five years of probation and a $1 million fine.