Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission today announced the arrests of nine individuals after a year-long investigation into the illegal baiting, taking and molestation of Florida black bears by the use of dogs for commercial purposes.
“Not only were these gruesome acts of violence repulsive and cruel, they were recorded and posted to social media for the amusement of the defendants,” said Attorney General Bondi. “I doubt they are laughing any longer now that they have been arrested for serious crimes.”
“Thanks to the comprehensive action of law enforcement, led by the dedicated officers of FWC, those responsible for these inhumane acts will face the full force of the law. In Florida, we have no tolerance for vile animal cruelty, and we will hold anyone accountable who commits this heinous crime,” said Governor Rick Scott.
“The actions revealed by this investigation are disturbing to me and to my fellow Commissioners. Speaking on behalf the Commission, these actions are not indicative of hunters and other conservationists, and I am grateful that our Division of Law Enforcement has worked diligently to bring their behavior to light. I look forward to Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution pursuing this case fervently and I thank them for their hard work on this case,” said FWC Chairman Robert Spottswood.
“The FWC wholly condemns the acts by these nine individuals outlined by this investigation. As conservationists and ethical hunters, it is appalling to think about the callous disregard for common decency and our state’s precious natural resources shown by these violations. There is no place in Florida for these heinous acts,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton.
“I’d like to recognize the hard and diligent work of the North Central investigative team on this case for the past year. They have been on this case from the beginning and have done outstanding work. This case sends a message to others who would commit these violations that there is no place in Florida for them,” said Colonel Curtis Brown, director of FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement.
According to the investigation, the defendants lured black bears by placing drums of dog food, doughnuts, pastries and peanut butter in various areas throughout Baker, Flagler, Marion and Union counties. The defendants then used large packs of dogs to chase and maul the black bears.
After some of the attacks, the defendants posted numerous videos of the acts on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. In some of the videos, defendants can be seen forcing the bears to a waiting pack of approximately a dozen dogs that then repeatedly bit the bears. None of the individuals involved tried to call off the dogs or stop the attack on the bears. The Office of Statewide Prosecution obtained warrants for social media accounts where the defendants posted videos of the attacks.
The FWC became aware of one of the bear killings by the group in Union County. FWC personnel set up game cameras to monitor the area for similar activity.
Law enforcement officials arrested the following individuals in connection to the crimes:
Christopher Elliot Haun, 42, Ormond Beach, Fla.
William Landrum, 39, Millboro, Va.
Mark Lindsey, 26, Moultrie, Ga.
Dustin Reddish, 25, Lake Butler, Fla.
Haley Reddish, 25, Lake Butler, Fla.
Charles Luther Scarbrough III, 30, Callahan, Fla.
Hannah Weiner Scarbrough, 27, Callahan, Fla.
Troy Travis Starling, 45, Lake Butler, Fla.
William Tyler Wood, 29, Lake Butler, Fla.
All nine defendants face various charges including animal cruelty, animal fighting or baiting, conspiracy to commit racketeering, littering, unlawful taking of black bears, and the unlawful use of a two-way communication device.
Attorney General Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution Assistant Statewide Prosecutors Kelly McKnight and Diane Croff will prosecute the defendants.