A Florida fisherman lost $2.8 million in prize money after he was disqualified from a fishing tournament in Maryland for failing a polygraph test.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Phillip Heasley, of Naples, the winner of the 2016 White Marlin Open tournament in Ocean City, Maryland that took place in August 2016, would be disqualified from the tournament, and 13 other contestants who won other competitions would split the prize money, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Heasley and his teammates won the tournament after catching a 76.5-pound white marlin but failed the two polygraph tests required under tournament rules.
Polygraph tests are required in most open-fishing competitions to verify that large prizes are won fairly and are often conducted by private investigators.
Officials say he violated the rules of the tournament for catching the fish before the time contestants were allowed to catch fish, at 8:30 a.m. on August 9, 2016, and lied about it in the polygraph. The tournament organizers made the decision to withhold his prize as a result.
After a two-week trial ten months later, a judge ruled in favor of the tournament’s organizers and against Heasley, Delmarva Now reports.
“Throughout the case, the intention of the White Marlin Open directors has been to protect the integrity of the tournament and to ensure that the rules are applied fairly for all participants,” officials for the White Marlin Open wrote in a statement on Facebook Wednesday regarding the ruling. “The White Marlin Open is pleased that its reputation for integrity, built over its forty-three-year history, has been upheld.”
Heasley’s attorney was “disappointed” with the results of the ruling, but maintained that his client followed the tournament’s rules. His lawyer added that his team is “reviewing the decision” and looking at their options going forward.
Heasley can appeal the judge’s decision for up to 30 days after the judge handed down his decision.