Two anglers indicted in alleged cheating scheme
By Maggie Kelch
Cleveland — Two tournament fishermen who were disqualified from the Lake Erie Walleye Trail (LEWT) Championship held here on Sept. 30 for allegedly cheating in the event are facing criminal charges.
Chase Cominsky, 35, of Hermitage, Pa., and Jake Runyan, 42, of suburban Cleveland, who were leading both the tournament and the LEWT Team of the Year competition, were disqualified when tournament director Jason Fischer cut open the five fish they had entered to find that they were allegedly stuffed with lead weights and fillets from smaller walleyes. If Runyan and Cominsky had won the tournament, they would have received a total prize of $28,760.
Immediately following the incident, Fischer contacted the Ohio DNR and Cleveland MetroParks Police, who confiscated the fish, weights, and walleye fillets as part of an investigation into the incident.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley announced that a county grand jury returned an indictment against Runyan and Cominsky on four separate charges: Cheating (a felony of the fifth degree); attempted grand theft (fifth-degree felony); possessing criminal tools (fifth-degree felony); and unlawful ownership of wild animals (a misdemeanor of the fourth degree).
According to the prosecutor’s office, upon conviction felonies of the fifth degree are punishable by up to 12 months in prison and up to $2,500 in fines. Misdemeanors of the fourth degree are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and up to $250 in fines upon conviction.
The prosecutor’s office also said that the unlawful ownership of wild animals charge (pertaining to their possession of fish fillets on their boat) could result in an indefinite suspension of their fishing licenses.
“I take all crime very seriously, and I believe what these two individuals attempted to do was not only dishonorable but also criminal,” O’Malley said in a statement. “I would like to formally thank the officers with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Hermitage, Pennsylvania, Police Department, the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for their quick actions and their execution of a search warrant resulting in the seizure of criminal tools, including defendant Cominsky’s boat and trailer.”
As part of the possession of criminal tools charge, Cominsky’s Ranger Pro Fisherman fiberglass boat, trailer, and all of the boat’s contents were confiscated at his home in Hermitage on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Pete Acker, the district attorney in Mercer County, Pa., said that a detective with his office worked with the ODNR to execute a search warrant and to seize the trailer, boat, and all of its contents as evidence.
“This is but the latest example of cooperation between law enforcement agencies, even when in two different states,” he said.
The search warrant affidavit states that the seizure of the boat and trailer was necessary “to preserve them as evidence of criminal violations and because they are subject to forfeiture.”
The affidavit shows that the five fish had eight, 12-ounce lead weights and two, 8-ounce lead weights in them.
In addition to providing details about the alleged cheating at the LEWT Championship, the affidavit also states that Cominsky and Runyan were investigated in April by the Rossford (Ohio) Police Department for allegedly cheating in another fishing tournament (the Rossford Roundup near Toledo.) The affidavit states that the Rossford police completed their investigation and then turned the case over to a prosecutor, who declined to file charges.
Neither Cominsky nor Runyan have spoken publicly since the alleged incident occurred.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said Runyan and Cominsky will be arraigned at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center at a later date.