The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department took two men into custody this week following an investigation into an alleged fraudulent prize claim during the 2017 BassCashBash tournament on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir.  

Authorities took Tanner Neal, 23, of Chester, into custody Thursday on a warrant for a charge of fraudulent freshwater fish tournament prize, according to county records. Joe Carl Loftin, 58, of Diboll, turned himself in Friday on the same charge.

On March 11, Loftin allegedly tried to claim a prize for a fish caught by Neal, who apparently was not competing in the tournament, and the two reportedly planned to split the prize money, according to Neal’s arrest warrant. The Texas Parks & Wildlife investigation concluded the prize claim was fraudulent because Loftin showed signs of deception in two polygraph tests. During an April 16 interview, Loftin reportedly admitted he did not catch the fish that he tagged and submitted.

“He went on to state that (Neal) caught the fish and approached him about submitting it and splitting the prize money,” the warrant stated.

Authorities identified Neal as Loftin’s accomplice by video surveillance from the store where the prize claim was submitted, according to the warrant. Loftin’s partner in the tournament, who was not identified in the warrant, corroborated Loftin’s statements about Neal’s involvement.

The Lufkin News has requested Loftin’s arrest warrant; however, as the document was requested after 5 p.m. Friday, it is not likely to be received until this week.

The BassCashBash website states the Sam Rayburn Reservoir tournament began Jan. 1 and ended April 30.

“Fish entered into competition for prizes must have been caught and landed by a registered participant on conventional rod, hook and line exclusively,” the tournament rules state.

The rules also indicate all tournament participants must be willing to submit a polygraph test.

“Failure to submit to or pass the required polygraph examination shall result in disqualification from this year’s and any future events,” the rules state.

More than $400,000 in possible prizes was expected to be paid out to participants in compliance with the tournament rules and regulations. The website did not indicate where Loftin would have placed in the tournament, or what prize he allegedly attempted to claim.

The tournament was conceived in April 2014 with the intent to do “good things,” according to the website. During the tournament’s inaugural year, 2015, enough proceeds were raised to provide donations to Ainsley’s Angels of America, Give a Wish for Texas & Louisiana and the Toledo Bend Lake Association, along with smaller contributions to eight high school fishing teams and one college team.

Casey Sizemore’s email address is

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