Tampa Bay, FL – A viral cell phone video of a shark being dragged behind a high-speed boat led to three Florida men being charged with animal cruelty, investigators announced on Tuesday evening (video below).
Michael Wenzel, 21, Robert Benac, 28, and Spencer Heintz, 23, were charged following a four-month investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), WNYW reported.
The FWC began investigating the nine-second video when it surfaced on social media in July, CNN reported.
The video showed a shark being dragged behind a boat, which appeared to be traveling at a high rate of speed.
The animal was brutally battered in the boat’s wake, as the men laughed.
“Look, it’s already almost dead,” one of the men said in the video.
Captain Mark Quartiano, a sports fisherman who is known by his social media followers as “Mark the Shark,” said the video was sent to him by one of the involved men.
But when Quartiano watched the footage, he was outraged.
“They tied the shark up by the tail, they let the fish down, they dragged him for hours,” Quartiano told CBS This Morning. “The shark was torn to pieces. That’s not a sportsman, that’s just animal cruelty.”
Investigators learned that the men shot the shark before they dragged it to death, CNN reported.
“Because they first shot the shark, it warranted two separate charges for animal cruelty,” said Robert Klepper, public information coordinator for the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement.
All three men were charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, FWC said.
Wenzel and Benac both received an additional misdemeanor count of illegal method of take.
Klepper said that the men face up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000 for each of the animal cruelty offenses, CNN reported.
You can see the disturbing video below: