Pair of anglers embroiled in Lake Erie fishing cheating controversy indicted on felony charges
Two fishermen who were kicked out of a Lake Erie walleye tournament late last month and ignited a cheating scandal have been charged with felonies.
Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominski were indicted in Cleveland on felony charges of cheating, attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools and misdemeanor charges of unlawfully owning wild animals. The two are scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 26.
Neither Runyan, 42, of Broadview Heights, Ohio, nor Cominski, 35, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, commented on the charges.
“I take all crime very seriously, and I believe what these two individuals attempted to do was not only dishonorable but also criminal,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley said in a statement.
“I would like to formally thank the officers with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Hermitage, Pennsylvania, Police Department, the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for their quick actions and their execution of a search warrant resulting in the seizure of criminal tools, including defendant Cominsky’s boat and trailer.”
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The incident occurred Sept. 30 during a lucrative walleye fishing tournament on Lake Erie. A video posted to Twitter showed Jason Fischer, the tournament director for the Lake Erie Walleye Trail, cutting open the five fish that won the tournament and finding lead weights and prepared fish fillets inside of them.
The discovery caused a big commotion, and the two fishermen were instructed to leave.
According to search warrant affidavits, the five walleye contained a total of eight 12-ounce lead weights and two eight-ounce weights and the fish fillets. Officials from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, the Hermitage Police Department and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission seized a boat, trailer and fishing gear belonging to Cominski Tuesday. The affidavit said the anglers used the boat during last month’s tournament.
The two fishermen would have taken home $28,760 in prizes for winning the tournament.
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Runyan and Cominski face fifth-degree felonies of cheating, attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools. The two face a fourth-degree misdemeanor of unlawful ownership of wild animals.
The felonies are punishable by up to 12 months in prison and up to $2,500 in fines, and the misdemeanors of the fourth degree are punishable by up 30 days in jail and $250 in fines, officials said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.