By Kelly Burgess
A convicted felon who posted images on Facebook about his poaching exploits attracted the attention of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Internet Crimes Unit and now faces seven felony charges and six misdemeanor charges related to his illegal activities.
The department's investigation into Facebook posts by Darin Lee Waldo, 43, of Davenport, Fla., led it to believe that he and friends may have been poaching game in Florida's Lake Marion Creek Wildlife Management Area during closed season. Waldo is a convicted felon who cannot legally possess firearms.
"Our investigators were able to gain Waldo's confidence over the Internet," said Lt. George Wilson, supervisor of the Internet Crimes Unit.
Waldo not only exchanged images of illegally killed game with FWC investigators via the Internet, but also took part in chat room conversations about his alleged actions and allegedly invited undercover agents to participate in two illegal hunts, eventually leading to his arrest Saturday by Polk County Sheriff's Office deputies.
"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.
Waldo's third-degree felony charges, each punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and/or five years in prison, include four counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and three counts of armed trespass. He also faces six second-degree misdemeanor charges, each punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.
In the first year since the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission created its Internet Crimes Unit, investigators initiated 168 investigations that have resulted in 177 arrests and 92 warnings.