A news story this morning on The Houston Chronicle’s web page caught me by surprise. Seven anglers — in this case, a female tournament team and its guide — have drawn Texas’ first felony charges of fraud in a saltwater competition. If convicted, these folks could face up to 10 years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines.
The Chronicle goes on to report that the chairman of the Texas Legislative Sportsman’s Caucus authored the provision, which added saltwater events to the state Parks and Wildlife code governing fraud in freshwater competitions. Violation of the code in smaller tournaments is a first-degree misdemeanor but becomes a third-degree felony when the payout totals more than $10,000.
I’m all for catching and punishing cheaters, but assessing prison time for stuffing a fish with lead weights or stashing a previously caught trophy seems a bit extreme. Of course, the bark might be worse than the bite in most potential cases — in other words, the judge likely has a wide range of options below the max sentence.
After all, many tournaments now carry purses of 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars. Cheating, especially in top-dollar tournaments, amounts to a fraudulent business deal. And wherever there’s a pile of money… deceit often follows.
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