Jacob Runyan of Ashtabula, and Chase Cominsky, of Hermitage, Pa., were arraigned on multiple charges Wednesday morning.
Both entered a plea of not guilty and had a bond set of $2,500. They are due back in court on November 9, 2022.
The two were indicted earlier this month by a Cuyahoga County grand jury for cheating, attempted grand theft, possessing criminal tools, and the unlawful ownership of wild animals during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament in September 2022.
“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,” said Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez.
There had been suspicions about the two in the past, but police didn’t find enough evidence to criminally charge them.
“We’ve looked at all their prior tournaments at part of the investigation. There are suspicions out there but there’s no evidence to prove they cheated in the other fishing tournaments,” said Gutierrez.
This time was different after the Lake Erie Walleye tournament director found weights and fish fillets stuffed inside their catch.
The boat they used that day was seized as a “criminal tool.”
“I thinking the whole fishing industry is a victim. It gives a bad name to these individuals and I’m sure 99.9% of the anglers out there are all people of integrity and honesty and play by the rules,” Gutierrez said.
Cleveland Walleye tournament organizers say from now on they will have a metal detector on hand and use lie detector tests.
Runyan and Cominsky each face three years in prison if convicted on the felony charges.