Jacob Runyan, 42, and Chase Cominsky, 35, were charged in Cleveland with misdemeanor charges of fraud, attempted theft, possession of an instrument of crime and unlawful possession of wildlife. They face up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine for each of the three felonies. Misdemeanors carry up to 30 days in prison and a $250 fine.
“I take all criminal conduct very seriously, and I believe what these two individuals are trying to do is not only dishonorable, but criminal,” Cuyahoga County Attorney Michael O’Malley said in a statement Wednesday.
Runyan, who lives in Ashtabula, Ohio, and Cominsky, who lives in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment. Court records have not yet listed lawyers for the men.
The indictment stems from the eventual championship game at the Walleye Trail Fishing Tournament on Lake Erie on September 9. About 65 two-person teams spent eight hours trying to scoop up five of the heaviest walleyes from the Great Lakes on Jan. 30. Runyan and Cominsky, who made up one of the teams, appeared to win the game in Cleveland, submitting five fish weighing nearly 34 pounds. As they won three other tournaments in June, July and September, the gain will also earn them Team of the Year honors – and nearly $30,000.
But race director Jason Fischer told The Washington Post in the days after the race that he became suspicious when Runyan and Cominsky’s catch was officially weighed and weighed more than 30 pounds. Fischer looked at the entrance and estimated that the five fish weighed about 20 pounds.
“It discouraged me a little bit because I knew it wasn’t right,” Fischer told the Post.
The fishermen almost won a game. Then weight was found on the fish.
Fischer instinctively grabbed a fish and felt something hard in his stomach. Then, he cut open the dead walleye and made a startling discovery.
“We have the weight of the fish!” Fischer shouted, pulling one of 10 seven-pound weights from the catch. The Cuyahoga County Attorney’s Office said in its report that he also found several fillets of bigeye—meat from other fish used to fortify the entrance, leading to charges of illegal wildlife possession that could lead to the arrests of Runyan and Cominsky. Fish licenses are suspended indefinitely. release.
According to a Sept. 11 video, Fisher disqualified him and Kominsky in dramatic fashion as Runyon stood a few feet away blushing. 30 activities shared by Fischer with The Post.
“Get out of here!” growled the race director, underscoring the point with profanity.
In a video posted to the tournament’s Facebook page last week, Fisher told viewers he was disgusted by his discovery, calling it one of the “most dishonest acts the fishing community has ever seen.”
“I’ve personally never seen anything like this in competitive fishing,” Fisher said, adding: “The individuals involved here seem to put greed and ego ahead of anything else, tainting our sport forever. “
According to a search warrant affidavit, Runyan and Cominsky were charged with cheating at another walleye game in northwest Ohio in April, The Associated Press reported. Police investigated the allegations, but local prosecutors determined that even though the men may have cheated, there was insufficient evidence to charge them, according to the Associated Press.
After Runyan and Cominsky were disqualified, event organizers contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, spokeswoman Stephanie O’Grady told The Washington Post earlier this month. Wildlife officers traveled to the event, where they gathered evidence and began preparing a report for the Cuyahoga County Attorney’s Office.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania authorities seized Cominksy’s boat, a fiberglass Ranger Pro Fisherman model, from his home during the September 30 race, the prosecutor’s office said.
Runyan and Cominsky are scheduled to appear in Cuyahoga County Criminal Court on October 18. 26.