A man is scheduled to be sentenced in Los Angeles federal court Monday for illegally bringing endangered Asian arowana fish — a freshwater aquarium variety thought in some cultures to bring luck, prosperity and health — on a flight from Vietnam to Los Angeles.
Cory Pham, 43, of Sunrise, Florida, pleaded guilty in January before U.S. District Judge Manuel Real to a single count indictment of importing merchandise contrary to law. Prosecutors are recommending a probationary sentence to include 100 hours of community service.
Pham admitted illegally importing five arowanas concealed in bags hidden in a plastic container in his luggage — and did not declare the fish to customs officials at Los Angeles International Airport upon his arrival Oct. 5, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The colorful arowana — also known as “arrows” and “dragon fish” — is protected by the Endangered Species Act and cannot legally be brought into the U.S. In some Asian communities, the species is thought to bring wealth and protection to businesses, and some owners believe the fish can understand their thoughts. The fish can fetch up to $2,500 on the black market in Los Angeles depending on their color.