CLEVELAND (AP) — Two men who admitted to stuffing fish with lead weights and fish fillets in an attempt to win thousands of dollars at an Ohio fishing tournament last fall were sentenced Thursday to 10 days in prison and other penalties. , including the forfeiture of a boat valued at $100,000.
The cheating allegations surfaced in September when Jason Fischer, director of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament, became suspicious of the fish delivered by Jacob Runyan, 43, of Ashtabula, Ohio; and Chase Cominsky, 36, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, were significantly heavier than typical walleye.
A crowd of people at Gordon Park in Cleveland watched as Fischer cut open the freshwater fish to find weights and walleye fillets stuffed inside.
As part of a plea agreement, Runyan and Cominsky pleaded guilty in March to swindling and illegal wildlife ownership, and agreed to suspend their fishing licenses for three years. Cominsky also agreed to give up his bass pot worth $100,000.
Once the two complete their terms in county jail, they will serve a year and a half on probation and each must pay a $2,500 fine, though half of the fine will be waived if they each donate $1,250 to a non-profit organization that promotes fishing with children. . If they violate their probation, they could face an additional 30-day sentence in county jail.
According to search warrant affidavits, five walleye contained lead weights and fillets. Officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources seized the fish as evidence.
They would have received just over $28,000 in prize money for winning the tournament.
Court records also said Runyan and Cominsky were investigated near Toledo in the spring of 2022 after being accused of cheating in a different walleye tournament. According to a police report, a prosecutor concluded that although the men may have cheated, there was insufficient evidence to charge them.