Fishermen sentenced in Lake Erie cheating scandal

·2 min read

May 11—CLEVELAND, Ohio — Two fishermen, including a Hermitage resident, were sentenced Thursday for their roles in a cheating scandal last year at the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament in Cleveland.

Chase Cominsky, 36, of Hermitage, and Jacob Runyan, 43, of Ashtabula, Ohio, were sentenced in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to 10 days in jail; 1 1/2 years of supervised release; and suspension of their fishing licenses for three years.

They also were required to forfeit Cominsky's boat that was used during the tournament for cheating and for the unlawful ownership of wild animals. The boat is worth an estimated $130,000, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.

The pair were also fined $2,500, part of which may be paid to a reputable charity that works with children and fishing, the court ordered.

"I have no doubt that these two crooks cheated in multiple tournaments over the last several years. Unfortunately, we can only hold them accountable for what they did on Sept. 30, 2022," Prosecutor Michael C. O'Malley said in a press release.

"Although these two deserve to have their fishing license suspended for life, the law only allows a maximum of three years. These two should be banned from every fishing tournament for life. They are thieves, and now they are convicted felons. This sends a message to the fishing community that cheaters will be held accountable in Cuyahoga County."

Runyan and Cominsky pleaded guilty March 2, to one count of cheating, a fifth-degree felony with forfeiture of the boat used in the tournament, and one count of unlawful ownership of wild animals, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

The charges stem from an incident on Sept. 30, 2022, when Runyan and Cominsky were competing in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament near North Marginal Road and Lakeshore Boulevard in Cleveland.

The tournament hosted fishermen from several surrounding states who were competing to see which team could catch five of the heaviest walleye fish in Lake Erie. Had Runyan and Cominsky won the tournament, they would have received a total prize of $28,760.

The tournament director noticed the pair's walleyes weighed more than they looked and sliced the fish open. Ten weights were found inside the walleyes, including eight 12-ounce weights and two eight-ounce weights, along with several walleye fillets used to keep the weights in place.

The pair were immediately disqualified and told to leave the tournament. The Cleveland Metroparks Police Department responded to the scene.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigated the incident, with the boat and trailer confiscated from Cominsky's Hermitage residence on Oct. 11, 2022.

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