Sport fishermen charged with crimes after Ohio cheating scandal

Sport fishermen charged with crimes after Ohio cheating scandal

A fishing couple at the center of a cheating scandal that rocked the sport fishing world last month were charged with multiple crimes on Wednesday, accused of stuffing their metal weight catches during a fishing tournament. Ohio in a bid to win tens of thousands of dollars.

Jacob Runyan, 42, and Chase Cominsky, 35, were charged in Cleveland with felony cheating, attempted grand larceny, possession of tools of the crime and misdemeanor unlawful possession of wild animals. They face up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine for each of the three crimes. The offense is punishable by 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

“I take all crimes very seriously, and I believe what these two individuals attempted to do was not only dishonorable but criminal,” Cuyahoga County District Attorney Michael O’Malley said in a statement Wednesday. .

Neither Runyan, who lives in Ashtabula, Ohio, nor Cominsky, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, immediately responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post. Court records do not yet list the men’s attorneys.

The indictments stem from the final competition of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Fishing Tournament Championship on Sept. 30, when approximately 65 two-person teams spent eight hours trying to snatch five of the heaviest walleyes in the Grand Lake. Runyan and Cominsky, who formed one of the teams, appeared to have won the event in Cleveland, after submitting five fish weighing nearly 34 pounds. That take would also have earned them Team of the Year honors — and nearly $30,000 — as they won three more tournaments in June, July and September.

But tournament director Jason Fischer told The Post in the days after the competition that he grew suspicious when Runyan and Cominsky’s catch was officially weighed in and the scale topped 30 pounds. Looking at the entrance, Fischer had estimated that the five fish would have weighed around 20 pounds.

“It deflated me a bit, because I knew it was wrong,” Fischer told the Post.

The fishermen almost won a tournament. Then weights were found in the fish.

Acting on his intuition, Fischer grabbed one of the fish and felt something hard in his stomach. He then opened the dead walleye and made a startling discovery.

“We have weights in the fish!” Fischer shouted as he pulled out one of 10 weights totaling seven pounds that would be in the hold. He also found several fillets of walleye – the flesh of other fish used to reinforce the entrance, leading to the charge of illegal wildlife ownership, which could result in the indefinite suspension of Runyan’s fishing licenses and Cominsky, the Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s Office said in its release.

As Runyan stood red-faced a few feet away, Fischer dramatically disqualified him and Cominsky, according to video of the Sept. 30 event that Fischer shared with The Post.

“Get out of here!” barked the Tournament Director, using a swear word to emphasize the point.

In a video posted to the tournament’s Facebook page last week, Fischer told viewers he was disgusted by what he had discovered, calling it one of the “most dishonest acts the fishing world has ever done.” have ever seen”.

“Personally, I’ve never seen anything like it in competitive fishing,” Fischer said, adding, “The individuals involved here seem to have put greed and ego before anything else, forever tainting our sport. “

According to the search warrant affidavit, Runyan and Cominsky were charged with cheating in April at another walleye tournament in northwest Ohio, the Associated Press reported. Police investigated the allegations, but a local prosecutor determined that while the men may have cheated, there was not enough evidence to charge them, according to the AP.

Anglers Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky were disqualified from a fishing tournament in Cleveland on September 30 after allegedly stuffing their fish with weight. (Video: Jackson Barton, Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

After Runyan and Cominsky were disqualified, tournament organizers contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, spokeswoman Stephanie O’Grady told The Post earlier this month. Wildlife officers traveled to the site of the event, where they collected evidence and began writing a report for the Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s Office.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania authorities seized Cominksy’s boat, a fiberglass Ranger Pro Fisherman model he used in the Sept. 30 competition, from his home, the district attorney’s office said.

Runyan and Cominsky are due in court in Cuyahoga County Criminal Court on October 26.

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