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3 Florida men now facing charges in connection to shark-dragging video

Three people are now facing charges in connection with a video that surfaced in late July of a shark being dragged behind a boat, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.

The suspects and their charges are as follows:
Michael Wenzel, 21, of Palmetto, Florida
• Two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, a third-degree felony
• One misdemeanor count of illegal method of take – shark, a second-degree misdemeanor

Robert Lee Benac, 28, of Bradenton, Florida
• Two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, a third-degree felony
• One misdemeanor count of illegal method of take – shark, a second-degree misdemeanor.

Spencer Heintz, 23, of Palmetto, Florida
• Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty, a third-degree felony

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The charges stemmed from a four-month long investigation into the video and "other disturbing images on social media involving shocking disregard for Florida's natural resources," the FWC said in a release.

“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,” Commission Chairman Bo Rivard said in the release. “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.”

“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,” Andrew H. Warren, state attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit, said in the release.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott also released a statement after the charges were announced: “I was outraged by the sickening video of a shark being horribly abused earlier this year. Florida has no tolerance for this mistreatment, and I am proud of the hard work of FWC law enforcement during this investigation to hold these individuals accountable for their horrific actions.”

Arrests made in shark dragging case After a four-month long investigation, three individuals have been arrested in...

Posted by MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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