Felony conviction in Minnesota fish contest case
Buffalo, Minn. — It isn’t often Brian Lutes prosecutes someone charged with cheating at fishing contests, but the odd case that wrapped up at last week’s sentencing will be memorable for the assistant Wright County attorney for more than one reason.
Graydon Scott Adickes, 46, of Annandale, was convicted in April of felony theft by swindle, for cheating to win prizes at three ice-fishing contests in 2010 and 2011. Adickes was ordered probation for five years, with a 17-month prison sentence stayed, must serve 90 days in jail, was fined $500, and was ordered to pay total restitution of about $9,000, according to Lutes. Of that restitution, $4,000 will go to a woman engaged to a 34-year-old Maple Lake man when he died in a plane crash nearly two years ago.
In the most notable of three fishing contests in which Adickes was convicted of cheating to win prizes, a benefit event was held on Cedar Lake near Annandale to honor Jeff Colbenson, who died a week prior to his wedding in August 2010, according to the Maple Lake Messenger. He was to be married to Beth Blizil, with whom he had a son, Carter. Operating the plane was Jeff Colbenson’s friend, 32-year-old Brett Johnson, of Becker.
The benefit fishing contest, in February 2011, was to raise money for Blizil (now Beth Colbenson) and her son. It drew nearly 4,000 people, according to the Messenger, and was attended by former Twins star Kent Hrbek.
It was at that contest – the Catch 4 Colbenson Ice Fishing Tournament – investigators say, that Adickes won a custom-built fish house valued at about $10,000, which he later sold to Beth Colbenson for $4,000.
Conservation Officer Brian Meis, who investigated the incidents, said Adickes told him that he hid a northern pike in a bag in his coat sleeve so it wouldn’t be detected.
“It was despicable human behavior, especially at a benefit where they’re trying to help somebody who’s been through a tragedy,” Lutes said.
Meis said he received a TIP call shortly after the contest took place, and began an investigation. The caller also said Adickes may have been involved in cheating at other contests.
In the process of investigating the alleged cheating, Meis said he found evidence of Adickes being a felon in possession of a firearm, something Lutes said his office used in negotiations to gain admissions of cheating from Adickes, who also was convicted of cheating at ice-fishing contests in 2010 (Big Lake, Big Lake Jaycees) when he won an ATV valued at about $5,000, and 2011 (on Eagle Lake) when he won a fish finder. Meis noticed the fish-holding cooler during his investigation.
Meis’ report says Adickes caught two northern pike from Lake John prior to the Colbenson (Cedar Lake) benefit contest, and kept them alive in a cooler with an aeration system. The Colbenson event was a contest, Meis said, that didn’t award the biggest fish, but rather when the fish was caught (the 10th or 25th fish, for example). Adickes won the contest with a 1.25-pound pike. Meis’ report says Adickes kept the fish alive in a plastic bag filled partially with water, and carried it onto the lake in his sleeve.
Meis believes Adickes may have sold the fish house to Beth Colbenson when the investigative heat “was turned up.” Lutes said Colbenson may have wanted the house for “sentimental reasons.”
The other two contests were similar to the Cedar Lake contest, according to Meis. He won a fish finder at the Eagle Lake contest with a 1.5-pound northern, and the ATV at the Big Lake Jaycees contest with a 3.5-pound largemouth bass. He hid those fish, too, in his clothing.
Meis said the case points the need for fishing contest officials to be wary of cheaters. It also lets potential cheaters know that they could be convicted of a felony offense, he said.
Besides the fine, restitution, and probation, Adickes also cannot fish during his five-year probation period, Lutes said.
“In the DNR world, that’s a very good sentence,” Meis said of Adickes’ penalty.