LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A 43-year-old man was sentenced today to a year of federal probation 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, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Manuel Real to complete 80 hours of community service.
Pham pleaded guilty in January to a single count indictment of importing merchandise contrary to law. The onetime Anaheim resident smuggled 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 Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Mitchell, Pham's role in the scheme appeared to be that of ``courier,'' a role he may have been led into by relatives.
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.
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