Something Fishy – Catching Fraud Before It Happens

This past spring, a local fishing club hosted a children’s fishing derby, and my sons were excited to participate.

While I’m not a fisherman, their great uncle is. He was able to attend with us and kindly outfitted the boys with fishing rods and a tackle box. We caught a few sunfish and fed the other fish plenty of worms from our hooks, but we didn’t catch any bass or trout to qualify for the biggest catch trophies. We had a great time, and my boys were hooked on the sport, but the lure of the “big catch” and the trophies presented during the hot dog lunch was strong. 

While children’s derbies offer a taste of competition and excitement, competitive local and regional fishing tournaments often offer lucrative prizes. At one recent such tournament, the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament, two competitors were accused of stuffing their catches with filets of other fish and lead weights.

The pair submitted five fish for the competition and were set to win the top prize, but after questions arose about how much the fish weighed, a dramatic scene unfolded. Video of a confrontation between the tournament director and one of the competitors appears to show the director cutting open the fish and finding the foreign objects.

The pair in question has faced allegations of cheating in prior tournaments and will likely now face renewed scrutiny of their prior performance.

All organizations can benefit from developing antifraud programs, especially when it comes to hosting tournaments and competitions.

Unfortunately, in many cases involving prizes and/or fame, some people are going to look for ways to bend or break the rules for their own benefit. I don’t know about the formal controls that were in place for the tournament in question, but it’s been reported that – contrary to most of the other competitors – the pair in question did not offer to donate their catch to a local food bank.

This could be similar to a behavioral red flag in an occupational fraud situation, such as refusing to take a vacation or living beyond one’s means. One suggestion I’d make is to institute mandatory onsite cleaning and gutting of fish in a controlled environment prior to the distribution of any awards, similar to the antifraud controls we may suggest to small businesses, and not unlike a management review or proactive data monitoring.

At Schneider Downs, we have years of experience helping organizations respond to fishy stories and red flags of potential fraud and helping them develop antifraud programs to catch fraud before it happens.

If you have questions or concerns – or find a fish that weighs twice what it should (!) – contact our Business Consultants Tom Pratt at [email protected] or Brian Webster [email protected].

Read the full Walleye cheating scandel story on the Post Gazette here.

About Schneider Downs Business Consulting 

Schneider Downs Business Consulting delivers sophisticated consulting services to meet the complex needs of today’s business environment. Our team features experienced professionals across a diverse array of specialties that allows us to help our clients make more informed business decisions across every facet of their operations.  

To learn more, visit our dedicated Business Consulting page.   

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