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Cheating angler gets seven days in jail, loses license

Alfred 'Tom' Mead

A Long Prairie angler long suspected of cheating at fishing tournaments was given seven days in jail Monday for cheating at the Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Derby this winter.

Alfred “Tom” Mead, 72, pled guilty to a felony charge of Theft By Swindle May 20, for sneaking a previously caught fish into the tournament Feb. 2. He has two prior gaming convictions and a decade-long trail of suspicion about his tournament winnings.

“Your conduct had a major impact on these things (fishing tournaments),” Judge Robert Tiffany scolded him. “I hope you realize the seriousness of your conduct.”Cheating, the judge said. “takes the enjoyment and joy out of it for those who bring their kids” and honest participants.

Mead is to report to the Hubbard County jail in one week.

He will be on probation for four years, during which he is barred from the Legion Club, was fined $200 and ordered to pay a $75 public defender co-payment.

During his probation, prosecutor Erika Randall asked that he not be allowed to participate in any fishing contests or tournaments, and that he apologize to the Legion.

Several Legion representatives were in the courtroom but chose not to speak. After the sentencing, they said justice was served.

“I like what the judge said at the end about ruining a family outing,” Legion manager Jerry Benham said.

Mead has been a winner at the Park Rapids tourney before, along with other regional fishing contests in which he won major prizes.

The felony he was convicted of carried a maximum of 5 years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.

The essence of the charge is trying to obtain property by swindle, “through artificial, trick, device or any other means.”

Mead admitted to catching two northern pike on another lake and keeping them alive to bring to the American Legion tournament.

In exchange for the guilty plea, Randall dismissed the game and fish violation he’d been charged with, for transporting live fish.

That posed a dilemma for Tiffany, who wondered aloud if he could revoke Mead’s fishing license on the theft charge alone.

Tiffany reasoned that “since the conduct falls squarely within it,” (the theft charge) the judge yanked Mead’s fishing and hunting privileges for two years, in Hubbard County and all adjacent counties.

The grand prize was an Ice Castle fish house valued at $10,000. Mead “was planning on registering the fish in the tournament in an effort to win a prize,” the complaint states.

In 2009, Mead was convicted in two separate incidents. In January in Todd County, he admitted fishing over the limit, for which he paid a $145 fine and $90 in court fees. He did not appear in court.

Two months later, he was convicted similarly in Otter Tail County of ”fishing with two hooks or a treble hook not attached to an artificial lure.” He was fined $35 and ordered to pay $90 in costs, again without having to appear in court.

During a brief conference in the courtroom prior to sentencing, Legion members questioned Randall as to whether Mead “got a slap on the wrist.”

Randall replied that his felony conviction will taint his record permanently.

“If he applies for a hunting or fishing license, Probation is notified,” she told the Legion representatives.

Mead did not comment during the proceedings and left the courthouse with his wife.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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