Ohio fishermen have pleaded not guilty to charges related to fraud scandal

Ohio fishermen have pleaded not guilty to charges related to fraud scandal

Two men accused of defrauding a Lake Erie fishing tournament out of nearly $30,000 in prize money pleaded not guilty Wednesday to several felony charges.

Jacob Runyan, 42, of Ashtabula, Ohio, and Chase Cominsky, 35, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, pleaded not guilty through their attorneys Wednesday in a Cleveland courtroom. This is reported by the Associated Press Both remained silent during the investigation.

Runyan and Cominsky was charged with a fifth-degree felony fraud, attempted grand larceny and possession of criminal tools. They are also charged with first-degree misdemeanor wildlife possession.

Their became a national conversation when tournament director Jason Fisher pulled lead sinkers and catfish out of the five fish he offered in the men’s Erie Walleye Trail Fishing Tournament. Fisher was suspicious when the fish weighed 33.91 pounds, well above the 16.89 pounds needed to claim Team of the Year honors and a five-figure payout.

Jacob Runyan, left, and Chase Cominsky stand in court, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in Cleveland.  The two pleaded not guilty to fraud and other charges at a successful Lake Erie fishing tournament in late September, where they were accused of stuffing five walleyes with lead weights and fish meat.  (AP Photo/Mark Gillispie)

Jacob Runyan, left, and Chase Kominski were arraigned Wednesday in a Cleveland courtroom. (AP Photo/Mark Gillispie)

An experienced angler would expect them to be closer to 15-20 pounds depending on their weight. He then cut one open to remove the first of several leads embedded inside the fish. He also found fish fillets inside the fish to prevent the weights from sticking together and making noise.

Then he got angryfellow competitors beat up the fishermen, with one saying “They’ve been doing this for years!”

Tournament fishing is a high-stakes competition with big competitors investing six figures in their boats and equipment. Cuyahoga County District Attorney Michael O’Malley said in an Oct. 12 statement about the felony charges against the fishermen.

“I find all crimes very serious and the actions of these two men were not only dishonorable, but criminal,” O’Malley said in a statement.

Runyan and Kominsky have not publicly disclosed the circumstances of the charges against them. They were released on $2,500 bond Wednesday.

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