Internet bragging leads to felony poaching arrest
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Media contact: Katie Purcell, 850-459-6585;
or Gary Morse, 863-227-3830
A convicted felon who posted pictures about his poaching
exploits on Facebook got the attention of the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Internet Crimes Unit. As a
result, the Polk County man faces seven felony charges and six
misdemeanor charges related to his illegal activities.
An FWC investigation into Facebook posts by 43-year-old Darin
Lee Waldo, of 619 West North Blvd., Davenport, found that he and
friends were poaching game on Lake Marion Creek Wildlife Management
Area (WMA) in Polk County during closed season. Waldo is a
convicted felon who cannot legally possess firearms.
Waldo was arrested early Saturday morning by the Polk County
Sheriff's Office. His third-degree felony charges include four
counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and three
counts of armed trespass. His second-degree misdemeanor charges
include two counts of attempting to take wild turkey during closed
season and one count each of attempting to take deer during closed
season, unlawful hunting on Lake Marion Creek WMA, unlawful
possession of a firearm on Lake Marion Creek WMA and unlawful entry
into Lake Marion Creek WMA.
Additional charges are pending on co-conspirators. Each
third-degree felony charge is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine
and/or five years in prison. Second-degree misdemeanors are
punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.
Waldo and the other suspects hid small boats and guns in wooded
areas and accessed the WMA by waterway to avoid apprehension.
"Our investigators were able to gain Waldo's confidence over the
Internet," said Lt. George Wilson, supervisor of the FWC's Internet
Via the Internet, Waldo exchanged photographs of illegally
killed game with FWC investigators, participated in chat rooms
describing his actions and invited undercover agents to participate
in two illegal hunts.
"Waldo was also trespassing and poaching on private ranches
before hunting season, stealing Florida's wildlife from landowners
who were maintaining conservation programs," Wilson said.
In a technologically advanced society, Internet websites provide
opportunities for collecting evidence of wildlife-poaching. The FWC
created its Internet Crimes Unit to monitor and collect evidence
when wildlife is exploited. In the unit's first year of operation,
investigators initiated 168 investigations, resulting in 177
arrests and 92 warnings.
"FWC investigators use the Internet to aggressively target
criminals who are abusing Florida's natural resources," Wilson