TAMPA (FOX 13) - Charges have been filed against three men in connection with video of what appears to be a shark being dragged behind a high-speed boat.
The charges resulted from a four-month investigation into the video and other "disturbing" images on social media involving "shocking disregard for Florida’s natural resources," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said.
FWC and the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office announced the charges Tuesday evening.
The suspects and their charges are as follows:
Michael Wenzel, 21, of Palmetto, is charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one misdemeanor count of illegal method of take - shark.
Robert Lee Benac, 28, of Bradenton, is charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one misdemeanor count of illegal method of take - shark.
Spencer Heintz, 23, of Palmetto, is charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty.
“As we’ve said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone,” said FWC Chairman Bo Rivard. “We appreciate the patience and support of the public as our law enforcement investigators worked... to identify a number of serious violations that will be brought to the courts for adjudication.”
FWC says the public can help by reporting suspected violations to the FWC. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
Governor Rick Scott responded on Twitter saying: