Feds: $30M in restitution owed in lobster smuggle

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge has ordered three men who pleaded guilty to smuggling South African rock lobsters to the U.S. to pay the South African government nearly $30 million in restitution.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Friday the $29.5 million in restitution is the largest sum ever ordered under the Lacey Act. That law makes it a crime to import illegally obtained fish, wildlife or plants into the U.S.

Defendants Arnold Bengis, David Bengis and Jeffrey Noll will get credit for $7 million already paid in another case. The men were charged in 2003 with importing lobster harvested in violation of South African law and pleaded guilty the following year.

The restitution was ordered after the government successfully appealed a judge’s ruling that restitution was not available.

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