2 fishermen plead guilty to cheating during Lake Erie fishing tournament

CLEVELAND — Two fishermen accused of adding lead weights and fish fillets to increase the weight of their catches at a Lake Erie tournament in October pleaded guilty to the charges on Monday in an Ohio court, prosecutors said.

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According to a news release by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley, Jacob Runyan, 43, of Broadview Heights, Ohio; and Chase Cominsky, 36, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of cheating and a misdemeanor count of the unlawful possession of wild animals.

The remaining charges were dismissed, WJW-TV reported.

The men were indicted in October on felony charges of cheating and attempted grand theft, possessing criminal tools and unlawful ownership of wild animals, according to the indictment filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. The men initially pleaded not guilty.

“This plea is the first step in teaching these crooks two basic life lessons,” Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley said in a statement. “Thou shall not steal, and crime does not pay.”

The season-ending LEWT Championship walleye shootout was held at Gordon Park in Cleveland Harbor on Sept. 30 and Oct, 1, 2022, The Plain Dealer reported.

The fishermen were accused of adding approximately 8 pounds of total weight by adding lead sinkers to the five fish they caught during the event, tournament director Jason Fischer told WXIX-TV. The men then padded the inside of the walleyes with fillet, preventing the judges from discovering the reason for the added weight, WJW-TV reported.

Runyan and Cominsky, who would have received a total prize of $28,760 if they had won the tournament, were disqualified immediately, according WOIO-TV.

They will be sentenced on May 11, O’Malley said. Both men will remain out on bail until their sentencing, according to WOIO.

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