Man Pleads Guilty to Smuggling `Lucky Fish' from Vietnam

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man who illegally imported 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 pleaded guilty today to a felony charge.

Cory Pham, 43, of Sunrise, Florida, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Manuel Real to a single count indictment of importing merchandise contrary to law. Sentencing is set for Feb. 20.

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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