Prosecutors in Ohio have successfully reeled in a catch — so to speak — after two men decided to plead guilty and admit to cheating in a fishing competition last year that went viral on social media.
Court records show Jacob Runyan, 43, and Chase Cominsky, 36, switched pleas from not guilty to guilty in a Cuyahoga County court on Monday.
They each admitted to one felony count of cheating and a misdemeanor count of unlawful ownership of wild animals.
The cheating incident made headlines across the internet when the pair were caught stuffing lead weights into fish at the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament in September near Cleveland.
“This plea is the first step in teaching these crooks two basic life lessons,” Cuyahoga County prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley said in a statement. “Thou shall not steal, and crime does not pay.”
The two men were originally charged in October with additional counts of attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools, but those charges were dropped in court on Monday as part of the plea agreement.
Fishing enthusiasts from a number of states were taking part in the competition in which anglers had to catch five of the heaviest walleye fish they could in order to win almost $29,000 in prize money.
Organizers immediately became suspicious during the weigh-in when the pair’s fish weighed at least 7 pounds, instead of the 4 pounds they appeared to be.
“We’ve got weights!” the tournament director yelled out after cutting into the fish and discovering 10 weights.
As the crowd booed, the pair were immediately disqualified and police were called.
Under the plea agreement, the pair agreed to forfeit a boat and trailer that were seized by authorities in September.
The pair will be sentenced on May 11.
Their attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.