Florida men charged in connection with viral shark-dragging video

'These actions have no place in Florida,' wildlife official says

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - Three Manatee County men accused of dragging a shark behind their boat have been charged with animal cruelty, state officials announced Tuesday.

A video of the incident went viral in late July after sport fisherman Mark Quartiano, also known as "Mark the Shark," re-posted the video on his Instagram page.

"For once I may have to agree with Peta," Quartiano wrote of video.

In the video, the camera pans over at one point and shows three men aboard the boat, laughing as the shark is being dragged in the water.

Michael Wenzel, 21, Robert Benac, 28, and Spencer Heintz, 23, were charged after a four-monthlong investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.

"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. "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."

Gov. Rick Scott also released a statement after the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office announced the charges.

"I was outraged by the sickening video of a shark being horribly abused earlier this year," he said. "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."

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