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Two fishermen have pleaded guilty to cheating at an Ohio tournament

Two men accused of stuffing fish with lead weights and fish fillets in an attempt to win thousands of dollars in an Ohio fishing tournament last fall pleaded guilty Monday to charges including fraud.

The Allegations of fraud surfaced in September Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament Director Jason Fisher became suspicious when Jacob Runyan of Broadview Heights, Ohio, and Chase Kaminski of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, caught fish significantly heavier than normal walleye.

A crowd at Gordon Park in Cleveland watched as the fisherman opened the walleye and found weights and walleye fillets stuffed inside.

CBS Cleveland affiliate WOIO-TV said the tournament hosted fishermen from several surrounding states who competed to see which team could catch five of the heaviest walleye on Lake Erie.

As part of a plea deal, Runyan and Cominsky pleaded guilty to wildlife fraud and illegal possession and agreed to a three-year suspension of their fishing licenses. Kominsky also agreed to give up his bass boat, valued at $100,000.

Fishing tournament scam

Jacob Runyan, left, and Chase Kominsky, sit in court during their sentencing Oct. 26, 2022, in Cleveland. They did not plead guilty at this time.

Mark Gillispie/AP

Prosecutors agreed to drop out Attempted possession of grand theft and criminal tools charges.

Both are scheduled to be sentenced on May 11. Prosecutors plan to recommend a six-month probation sentence and later request that they plead guilty if they successfully complete their probation, said James Gallagher, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

His attorney, Kevin Spellacy, said the plea is Kominsky’s first step toward moving on with his life and taking full responsibility. A message seeking comment was left with Runyan’s attorney.

According to the search warrant affidavit, the five walls contained lead weights and fillets. Officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources seized the fish as evidence.

They would have received a prize of just over $28,000 for winning the tournament.

WOIO said both men will remain on bond pending their sentencing.

Court records also say Runyan and Kaminsky were investigated for allegedly cheating at a different walleye tournament near Toledo in the spring of 2022. According to a police report, a prosecutor concluded that although the men had committed fraud, there was insufficient evidence to charge them.

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