Shark divers tricked into setting 19 sharks free and stealing fishing gear

A pair of cheeky crooks conned a group of unsuspecting tourists into stealing over a thousand pounds’ worth of fishing gear – but the entire crime was documented on the holiday makers’ cameras.

Captain John R. Moore Jr and mate Tanner J. Mansell were both licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry passengers for hire, and in August 2020 they took six tourists out to swim with sharks in the waters off Jupiter Inlet, Florida.

After their first dive of the day the crew spotted a large orange buoy, which was the marker for a commercial fishing operation, but Moore, 56, told the tourists it was an abandoned “ghost set” and asked them to help him gather it up.

The unwitting accomplices spent the next few hours collecting some three miles of line, along with weights and other equipment, freeing captured sharks as they did so.

“The passengers took videos and still photos which established that this activity extended for more than three hours and resulted in the loss of at least 19 sharks to the fishermen and vessel owner,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Some of the passengers’ photos showed that the site had been clearly marked with an orange buoy, and therefore a legal and active fishing site, but Moore and Mansell, 29, later disposed of the buoy while keeping some of the rest of the equipment – later valued at $1,300 (Just under £1,100).

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When the haul was later checked by a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission officer, it was noted that “all the gear retrieved by Moore and Mansell appeared brand new, with fresh bait on the hooks, and no rust as would be evident with abandoned fishing gear”.

Evidence at trial established that the value of the lost sharks amounted to several thousand dollars, which represented a significant portion of the income that would be paid to the fishermen.

In addition to potential prison time, Moore and Mansell may be fined up to $250,000 and they may also be ordered to pay restitution to their victims.


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