Competitive Anglers Face Criminal Charges Over Tournament Cheating Allegations

Two fishermen accused of stuffing fish with sinkers and nets in a bid to win thousands of dollars at a fishing tournament in Ohio were charged on Wednesday with attempted robbery and other counts of charge.

Jacob Runyan, 42, of Broadview Heights, Ohio, and Chase Cominski, 35, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, were charged in Cleveland with felony cheating, attempted grand larceny, possession of criminal tools and misdemeanor unlawful possession of wild animals. They are to be arrested on October 26.

Neither man immediately responded to voicemails seeking comment.

The cheating allegations surfaced Sept. 30 when Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament Director Jason Fischer became suspicious because Runyan and Cominski’s fish were significantly heavier than walleye of that length. A crowd of people at Gordon Park in Cleveland watched Fischer open the walleye and announce that there were weights and stuffed walleye fillets inside.

An Ohio Department of Natural Resources officer confiscated the fish as evidence.

Fischer also did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Runyan and Cominski reportedly received US$28,760 in prize money for winning the tournament.

According to the search warrant affidavits, the five pickerel contained a total of eight 12-ounce (0.34 kilogram) lead weights and two eight-ounce (0.23 kilogram) lead weights, along with the fish fillets. Officers from the ODNR, Hermitage Police Department and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission seized a boat, trailer and fishing gear belonging to Cominski in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. The fishermen had used the boat in last month’s tournament, according to the affidavits.

One of the affidavits revealed that Runyan and Cominski were investigated by police in Rossford in northwest Ohio in April after being accused of cheating in another walleye tournament. According to a Rossford police report, an assistant Wood County prosecutor concluded that although the men may have cheated, there was not enough evidence to charge them.


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