Poachers have never been accused of being the sharpest knives in the drawer, and this most recent incident from Florida proves that in spades.
43-year-old Darin Lee Waldo of Davenport was arrested and charged with seven different felony charges and six misdemeanor charges after several facebook posts of his poaching crimes prompted Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Internet Crimes Unit officials to launch an investigation that ultimately led to his arrest.
A convicted felon who cannot legally possess firearms, Waldo and other accomplices were accessing the Lake Marion Creek Wildlife Management area during closed seasons. The group hid small boats and guns in wooded areas and accessed the WMA by waterway to avoid apprehension.
The internet crimes unit went to work when Waldo's facebook images appeared.
"Our investigators were able to gain Waldo's confidence over the Internet," said Lt. George Wilson, supervisor of the FWC's Internet Crimes Unit.
The FWC Internet Crime team received images and details of Waldo's crimes via private messaging and chat rooms. Two undercover agents were even invited to participate in two illegal hunts by the accused.
"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.
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.
Florida's Internet Crimes unit has been very successful in tracking down poaching crimes and other wildlife violations. In its first year of operation, the unit has 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 said.