CLEVELAND (WEWS) — Two fishermen pleaded guilty to multiple charges for cheating during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament in September 2022 after the tournament director found weights inside the fishermen’s catches.
In the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas on Monday, Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky both pleaded guilty to two of the four charges they were originally charged with:
- One count of Cheating (felony of the fifth degree)
- One count of Unlawful Ownership of Wild Animals (misdemeanor of the fourth degree)
Runyan and Cominsky are set to be sentenced on May 11.
Fifth-degree felonies are punishable by up to 12 months in prison and up to $2,500 in fines, officials stated. Fourth-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and up to $250 in fines.
Monday was to be the jury selection day for Runyan’s and Cominsky’s trial on these charges; instead, the men decided to plead guilty. They were also originally charged with fifth-degree felony counts of attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools.
As part of the plea, they were ordered by the court to forfeit their fishing boat, trailer and other fishing equipment, and their fishing licenses have been suspended for three years.
“This plea is the first step in teaching these crooks two basic life lessons,” said Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley. “Thou shall not steal, and crime does not pay.”
According to an ODNR investigation, Runyan and Cominsky competed in the tournament on Sept. 30, 2022.
The tournament hosts fishermen from several states to see which team can catch the five heaviest walleye in Lake Erie.
Had Runyan and Cominsky won the tournament, they would have received a total prize of $28,760.
At the end of the tournament, the director noticed that the duo’s walleyes weighed more than they looked and sliced the fish open.
An investigation revealed that 10 weights were found inside the walleyes, with eight weighing 12 ounces and two weighing eight ounces, along with several walleye filets.
The pair was immediately disqualified and asked to leave the tournament.
This story was originally published March 27 by WEWS in Cleveland, an E.W. Scripps Company.