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Probation for Chicago chef who tried to land endangered dragon fish for aquarium

Sittipat “Ong” Satangmongkol was charged with violations of the Endangered Species Act after trying to obtain arowana fish. The fish, also known as dragon fish, are highly coveted. | Facebook/Kolkata Arowana Club

A Chicago chef has been sentenced to probation for trying to buy 24 coveted dragon fish for his home aquarium and for a friend in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Sittipat “Ong” Satangmongkol, owner of Thai Nang restaurant in West Town, had faced a possible sentence of as much as a year in jail.

In August 2013, federal agents seized a shipment of live fish at O’Hare Airport, according to his lawyer Adam Sheppard. Satangmongkol had ordered the fish, some of which were legal, Sheppard said. But two dozen dragon fish — arowanas — were illegal to purchase in the United States.

These highly prized fish can fetch thousands of dollars apiece. They are in especially high demand in Asia.

According to report in The New York Times last year, headlined “A King of the Tank, Favored by the Crazy Rich,” a Chinese Communist Party official was rumored to have bought one arowana for $300,000, and some wealthy dragon fish owners have paid for cosmetic surgery for them.

Satangmongkol pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced in federal court in Chicago.

His lawyer argued for probation, saying Satangmongkol had no criminal record and is responsible for seven employees at his restaurant.


Chef hooked for trying to buy coveted ‘dragon fish’ that’s banned in U.S.