On Monday, Jacob Runyan, 43, from Ashtabula, Ohio, and Chase Cominsky, 36, from Hermitage, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to charges of cheating in a walleye fishing tournament held on Lake Erie.
In October of last year, the two men were indicted on multiple counts, including felony charges of cheating, attempted grand theft, and possessing criminal tools, as well as a misdemeanour charge of illegal animal ownership. Despite initially pleading not guilty, the men have now admitted to their wrongdoing.
Both individuals have admitted guilt to one felony count of cheating and one misdemeanour violation related to animal ownership, resulting in the dismissal of the remaining charges. They are scheduled to be sentenced on May 11.
According to officials, participants from neighbouring states vied for the title of the heaviest walleye catches during the September 2022 tournament, with a prize of over $28,000 at stake. However, during the competition, a judge noticed that the fish caught by Runyan and Cominsky seemed to be heavier than expected. Upon further inspection, the judge found that the fish had been tampered with as multiple weights, ranging from 8 to 12 ounces, and multiple walleye filets were found inside after the fish was sliced open. As a result of this discovery, the duo was disqualified from the competition and ordered to leave.
Recently, the duo achieved a remarkable winning streak on Lake Erie, garnering significant cash prizes and valuable rewards, including a fishing boat. The Toledo Blade reported that they emerged victorious in all three Lake Erie Walleye Trail competitions held last year, earning tens of thousands of dollars and various other prizes from other tournaments. This exceptional run of luck is believed by some to be the most remarkable feat ever achieved on the lake.
“You have individuals who committed a fraud trying to obtain money. That’s a fraud in any context whether it’s a fishing case or some Ponzi scheme,” Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez said in October.
According to Gutierrez, the authorities had previously suspected the duo of cheating in past tournaments, but no evidence of any wrongdoing had been found. As a result, the organizers of the fishing competition plan to incorporate metal detectors and lie detectors in upcoming tournaments.
Story and photos courtesy of The Hill