The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office announced charges this week against three individuals connected to a video of a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed.
Investigators say the charges resulted from a four-month long investigation into the video and other disturbing images on social media, described as involving shocking disregard for Florida's natural resources.
According to the FWC, Michael Wenzel, Robert Lee Benac, and Spencer Heintz, all residents of Florida, were charged with a number of counts related to the episode.
Authorities said they appreciated the patience and support of the public as law enforcement investigators worked with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office to identify a number of serious violations that will be brought to the courts for adjudication.
Officials said they hoped the charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behavior involving Florida's fish and wildlife will not be tolerated.
During the course of the investigation, FWC officers said they confirmed numerous criminal violations, resulting in felony and misdemeanor charges.
Investigators said they conducted exhaustive research into the suspects’ social media activity, conducted numerous interviews and spoke with a number of subject matter experts on sharks.