Jacob Runyan, 43, of Ashtabula, and Chase Cominsky, 36, of Hermitage, Pa., were each indicted in October on felony charges of cheating, attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools and a misdemeanor count of illegal animal ownership and initially pleaded not guilty.
But on Monday, each pleaded guilty to a felony count of cheating and a misdemeanor animal ownership violation. The boat and trailer they used when they cheated was forfeited. The remaining charges were dismissed.
The pair is due for sentencing on May 11.
In the September 2022 tournament near North Marginal Road and Lakeshore Boulevard, anglers from several surrounding states competed for the heaviest walleye catches, according to authorities. The pair stood to win a prize of more than $28,000.
A tournament judge, however, noticed the fish caught by Runyan and Cominsky weighed more than they would have appeared. The judge sliced the fish open and inside were multiple weights, between 8 to 12 ounces, and several walleye filets. The pair was disqualified and told to leave the tournament.
“You have individuals who committed a fraud trying to obtain money. That’s a fraud in any context whether it’s a fishing case or some Ponzi scheme,” Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez said in October.
Authorities suspected the pair of cheating in past tournaments but never found evidence of any crimes, Gutierrez said.
Organizers of the fishing tournament intend to use metal detectors and lie detectors in future tournaments.