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Fish contest 'cheater' to be sentenced

A Long Prairie man with two gaming convictions and a litany of suspicion dogging him will be sentenced June 17 in Hubbard County for cheating at the Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Derby this winter.

Alfred "Tom" Mead, 72, recently pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft by swindle, for sneaking a previously caught fish into the tournament February 2.

Mead has been a winner at the Park Rapids tourney before, along with other regional fishing contests in which he won major prizes. In 2004, he won the Ice Fishing Challenge in Alexandria with a 7.14 pound walleye he brought to the weigh-in station during the contest's final seconds. He won a Ford F150 pickup with the catch.

He denied cheating in a previous Park Rapids Enterprise interview.

The charge is a felony, punishable by a maximum of 5 years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. Sentencing guidelines will determine his punishment, but two prior gaming convictions will likely factor in any sentence.

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

According to the complaint, when Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes caught Mead cheating on Fish Hook Lake during the annual tournament, the defendant allegedly said, "What can I say, I got caught. God told me not to do it but I did it anyway."

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

Aukes said he had difficulty escorting Mead off the ice February 2 because so many people were heckling him and yelling, "Cheater!"

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.

Mead was also charged in Hubbard County with transporting live fish, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine upon conviction.

Assistant Hubbard County Attorney Erika Randall said that charge would be dismissed as part of a plea agreement on the day of sentencing.