Three people were arrested Tuesday in connection to the video of a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed.
Michael Wenzel, 21, and Spencer Heintz, 23, both from Palmetto, Fla., along with Robert Lee Benac, 28, of Bradenton are facing two counts of aggravated animal cruelty. This charge is a third-degree felony.
Beneac and Wenzel also face a misdemeanor charge of illegally taking a shark.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office announced the charges following a 4-month investigation.
“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 Commission Chairman Bo Rivard. “We appreciate the patience and support of the public as our 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. It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behavior involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated.”
According to FWC, investigators conducted exhaustive research into the suspects' social media activity, as well as several interviews and spoke with a number of subject matter experts on sharks.
“The State Attorney’s Office is committed to holding these men accountable for having engaged in such senseless and unjustifiable animal cruelty. We thank the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their work in investigating these crimes, and we stand with them, along with Florida’s fishing and hunting communities, and all those who cherish our precious natural resources, in condemning the torture of our marine wildlife,” said Andrew H. Warren, State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit.