Some unladylike behavior in the Ladies Kingfish Tournament held in South Padre Island has left seven people facing felony accusations for cheating during the competition.
Willacy County Game Warden Oscar Castaneda was checking boats at the ramp with fellow warden Jason Duke when the suspicions first began.
“We’d had conversations with people in the area that they had possibly been cheating in different tournaments, and we both recognized the boat,” he said. “(Game Warden Jason Duke) went over for a water safety inspection, and they started unloading fish they were going to take to the weigh-in.”
The wardens noticed that some of the fish, including the trout, had red bellies, which Castaneda said raised a red flag that the fish had been kept in a basket instead of being recently caught. The wardens called ahead to the tournament directors to advise that the fish be studied carefully for legitimacy.
“About 45 minutes later we’re still checking boats, and we get a call from another game warden that said the team showed up with a flounder,” he said. “We said, ‘man, there’s no way they caught a flounder between here and there’ — she had as much as told me there wasn’t a flounder anywhere in the boat.”
An individual then came forward and told wardens that he had seen a flounder handed off in Arroyo City to Jose Cavazos, father of fishing guide Jose “Meme” Cavazos, whose boat was being used by the women for the tournament.
“For the Calcutta, you’re required to have that flounder,” Castaneda said. “The Calcutta pays out a ton, and with that fish they were tied for first and ended up second.”
The women won over $5,000 for second place.
“It’s just wrong on so many levels,” he said. “It’s the first saltwater fraud charges ever filed in the state.”
The decision to cheat has brought the defendants third-degree felony charges.
“The charge is fraud in a fishing tournament, section 66.023 of the Parks and Wildlife penal code,” said Cameron County Justice of the Peace Bennie Ochoa III.
The defendants include David Garcia, 38 of Bulverde; Judith Schroder, 56, of Ludford; Ada Pamela Guijarro, 26, and Stacy McMillen of Laguna Vista; and finally Jose Cavazos, 67, Andriana Cavazos, 31, and fishing guide Jose “Meme” Cavazos, 33, all of Combes.