Ocean City Today

Judge approves White Marlin Open plaintiffs' plan to split winnings

Jul 13, 2017
Photo by: File photo Richard Kosztyu's winning tuna

(July 14, 2017) U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett formally closed the case of last year’s contested White Marlin Open on Monday, when he signed the order stipulating how the winnings would be divided among the winners.

Although the end of the lawsuit challenging last year’s presumed winner was presented as a fait accompli by various news agencies last week after the plan was submitted, Bennett had yet to agree to the plaintiffs’ financial distribution plan.

The plaintiffs had submitted a payment structure for the $2.8 million up for grabs and on Monday Bennett concurred that the biggest piece of the prize money — more than $2 million — would go to Richard Kosztyu of Hamilton, New Jersey, who boated a 236-pound tuna in last year’s open.

Jim Conway of Glen Burnie, Maryland will get about $230,000 for his 790-pound blue marlin. Also bringing home six figures is Mark Hutchison of Cordova, Maryland, with about $123,000 for his 233-pound tuna. Ten other anglers are also compensated in the plan.

Also part of the proposal by the plaintiffs is a deal to work out the legal expenses and fees incurred by the tournament. In it, the plaintiffs agreed to absorb $340,000 in costs, with the lion’s share, more than $280,000, provided by Kosztyu.

At the close of the 2016 tournament, only one qualifying white marlin had been caught, so the fish landed by Phillip Heasley earned him a record-setting $2.8 million. Heasley used his own boat, the Kallianassa, staffed by crew he hired, and was the only person on the vessel able to participate in the tournament.

According to tournament rules, all anglers winning more than $50,000 in prize money as well as any crewmember registered to the vessel on which the winning fish was landed may be required to take and pass a polygraph test.

The polygraph provision of the rules has been in place since at least 2004, according to court documents, and is not unusual for high-dollar fishing tournaments.

Last year, four people were required to take the test, including Heasley. Three passed, but Heasley did not, according to court documents.

The tournament then allowed Heasley and the crew to take additional polygraph tests to qualify for the prize money, which resulted in findings of deception by both angler and crew.

Based on the detected deception, the tournament declared it would withhold the prize money and legal proceedings began.

As part of those proceedings, Heasley and crew of the Kallianassa submitted to a third set of polygraph tests at their own expense, the results of which were not entered into evidence during the case.

The case ended with Bennett finding the tournament acted within its obligations with regard to the polygraph results, but went a step further and declared Heasley’s lines were in the water earlier than was reported, which is enough for a tournament disqualification alone.

Heasley had also filed counterclaims in the suit, all of which were decided in the tournament’s favor.

This year’s tournament is scheduled for Aug. 7-11 in Ocean City.

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