LOS ANGELES — Three people have been charged in Los Angeles with smuggling live corals.

Prosecutors say a federal grand jury returned indictments last week against two Southern California men, a Houston man and two companies based in Inglewood, California.

Authorities contend that live corals illegally ripped from reefs in Vietnam were hidden in luggage and air cargo shipments heading to the United States and Mexico. In one case, the corals were stuffed into Pringles potato chip cans.

Acting U.S. attorney Sandra Brown says the corals — which are protected by international treaty — were intended to decorate fish tanks.

If convicted on all counts, each defendant could face a decade or more in federal prison.

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