Fish crimes don’t pay: Minnesota man jailed for cheating in fishing competition

So this here's a story about fishing, and cheating, and Minnesota. It's probably a few acts of violence short of being a Coen Brothers film, but since this is the real world, we're OK with that.

Tom Mead is a 72-year-old fisherman who'll be cooling his heels for a week in prison. His crime? Trying to defraud the Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Derby at Fish Hook Lake back in February.

That's right, we said it. Tom Mead besmirched the sanctity of the Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Derby. This country, I tell you what.

How'd he do it? By sneaking a couple fish from another lake into his boat. Why'd he do it? To win a $10,000 Ice Castle fish house, so you can understand the motivation. And, as it turns out, he ignored some good solid advice.

"What can I say? I got caught," he reportedly told a police officer. "God told me not to do it but I did it anyway."

We've all been there, Tom. Friends, until you've held a man's fishing pole, don't go passing judgment.

Well, unless you're a judge. Then you can let 'er rip. And that's exactly what Judge Robert Tiffany did in sentencing Mead, who pled guilty to a count of theft by swindle, to a week in prison.

"Your conduct had a major impact" on the tournament, Judge Tiffany said. "I hope you realize the seriousness of your conduct." Judge Tiffany then added an extra helping of guilt, saying that Mead's cheating "takes the enjoyment and joy out of it for those who bring their kids."

Well, the kids did learn something, apparently: the power of mob rule. As Mead was being escorted off the ice by Hubbard County police, the crowd shouted, "Cheater! Cheater!" It is a grand tragedy of the Internet age that no video of this apparently exists.

This isn't Mead's first suspicious fish rodeo. He's been convicted of two other fish-related charges since 2009: fishing over the limit and fishing with illegal hooks. But he'll have some time to think on his crimes; he's lost his hunting and fishing license for two years in a radius around Bemidji County, and he's banned from any fishing contests for four years. That's what you get when you're anglin' for trouble.

You know, upon reflection, this whole story just reads better if you do it in a Jerry Lundegaard "Fargo" accent:

Does it make the story better? You're darn tootin'.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee. He's cooperatin' here.-

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