HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) — Two fishermen accused of cheating during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Championship have been indicted by a grand jury in Ohio.
Jacob Runyan, 42, and Chase Cominsky, 35, have been charged with cheating, attempted grand theft, possessing criminal tools, and unlawful ownership of wild animals. Both men were allegedly caught cheating at the Ohio fishing tournament last month, and accused of putting lead weights in the fish they caught ahead of a final weigh-in.
News of the indictment comes a day after investigators seized a boat and trailer from Cominsky at a home in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. Pete Acker, the district attorney of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, said the items — which included a Ranger Pro Fisherman boat — were taken as evidence.
The fishing scandal made national headlines after footage from the tournament went viral on social media. Jason Fischer, the organizer of the championship, could be seen confronting the fishermen with the weights in some of the clips.
Fischer told Nexstar he initially became suspicious after feeling “hard objects inside the belly of one of the fish.”
According to a search warrant, all five fish that the pair caught were ultimately found to have lead weights inside of them.
Organizers of the tournament immediately disqualified Runyan and Cominsky and contacted police and state wildlife officers, who forwarded a report to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.
Acker said he was contacted last week by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office to assist in obtaining the warrant for the local seizure. On Tuesday, both the boat and trailer were taken from the Hermitage home.
“We work cooperatively with our partners, whether it’s the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office or ODNR or any other law enforcement,” Acker said.
In recent years, Runyan and Cominsky have won a slew of fishing tournaments with cash awards and major prizes, including a fishing boat. The Toledo Blade reports that the pair finished in first place in the three Lake Erie Walleye Trail events this year, pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in addition to prizes from other contests.
The search warrant states that the two were also being investigated by the Rossford Police Department in Ohio on allegations of cheating in a fishing tournament on April 22.
Chelsea Simeon contributed to this report.