August 1, 2005
A little more than four years ago, law enforcement officers with the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arrested two subjects for
illegally capturing 114 alligators on Lake Kissimmee. On Friday, June 27, 2005,
Aaron Grant King, 48, of 19242 Hwy. 60 E., Lake Wales, operator of the airboat,
and Russell Dave Bell, 49, of 2365 North Thomas Rd., Avon Park, pled no contest
before 10th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrance, to one count each of
felony possession of an alligator.
King and Bell were sentenced to serve 10 months each in the Polk County jail,
forfeit the 1993 Gilileo airboat and a .44 caliber handgun used in the
commission of the crime, pay $370 for felony court costs, $350 restitution to
the FWC and remain on probation for a period of three years.
King and Bell’s legal problems started on Sunday morning, April 8, 2001, when a
security guard at River Ranch in Lake Wales heard shots being fired in the
vicinity of Lake Kissimmee and called the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline to report
the incident. Officers Lee Birge and Randy McDonald staked out the boat ramp at
the intersection of Highway 60 and the Kissimmee River after determining an
airboat had been working the shoreline nearby.
The FWC Officers observed two individuals in an airboat approach the boat ramp
around 1:40 a.m. Upon arriving at the boat ramp, a passenger carrying two mesh
bags jumped out of the airboat. The officers watched the duo unload three more
suspicious bags before stopping them and searching the bags.
King and Bell were found to be in illegal possession of 114 alligators. The
alligators ranged in size from hatchlings to four feet in length. Of the 114
alligators, 72 were from one and one-half to four feet in length. The other 42
alligators were hatchlings. Officers confiscated and released all alligators
alive except one that had been shot. At the time, King and Bell were each
charged with one count of felony alligator possession. The state attorney’s
office later charged the pair with 114 counts of felony possession of an
This is one of the largest alligator poaching cases ever successfully prosecuted
in Florida, said Gary Morse, FWC spokesman.
To report wildlife and fisheries violations, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at
1-888-404-FWCC (3922) at anytime. Those reporting violations may remain
anonymous and also may be eligible for a reward.