Fishing contest organizers asks court to decide who won tournament after winner fails polygraph tests
A federal court in Baltimore is being asked to determine the outcome of a fishing contest in Ocean City, Md., after organizers said the man who was declared the winner of a $2.8 million first prize twice failed polygraph tests.
Billed as “the world’s largest billfish tournament,” the White Marlin Open spans a week in August and takes place offshore from Ocean City. There’s no oversight on the open water, so those who win $50,000 or more are required by contest rules to take a polygraph test.
“There’s no policeman out in the ocean,” said Jim Motsko, president of the tournament. To keep it from being a “free-for-all, we learned real quick, you got to have rules and stick with them.”
The big winner of this year’s tournament, Philip G. Heasley of Naples, Fla., caught the winning 76.5-pound white marlin but failed the polygraph tests, according to the court filings.
Heasley was not awarded the prize money, and organizers are seeking a court order allowing them redistribute the $2.8 million first prize to 13 competitors who won other categories during the tournament.
The complaint accuses Heasley of using “countermeasures” during the polygraph tests and alleges he was “deceptive” when he responded to questions about whether he violated the fishing tournament rules and whether he had been truthful in his answers to the polygraph test questions.
Heasley and the three others aboard the boat Kallianassa when the winning marlin was caught all failed polygraph examinations.
The complaint says that on the “catch report,” where participants mark down when a fish was caught, it appeared the time written down had been changed from 8:15 a.m. to 9:05 a.m. Had the fish been caught before 8:30 a.m., it would have been a violation of tournament rules.
Heasley has denied committing any violation and questioned the validity of the polygraph tests, according to court filings. He has also noted that he was presented a first-place trophy and check at the awards ceremony held the Saturday after the weeklong event, identifying him as the rightful winner.
As to the incorrect time on the catch report, his attorneys wrote that it was an error and was changed to “reflect the correct time that the winning white marlin was caught.”
Heasley did not respond for requests for comment.