Polygraph tests, legal threats and a $2.8 million conspiracy theory have all been boiled down into one hot controversy for a fishing competition in the United States.
White Marlin Open officials have filed legal documents with a local court in Maryland, calling for a judge order to decide the fate of a $2.8 million prize purse that has been withheld from the competition winners under extraordinary circumstances.
Competition organisers have refused to pay out the top prize of $US2,818,662 to a group of disqualified fishermen who claim to have caught the 34.5kg first-prize white marlin on August 9.
However, the story the anglers on the Kallianassa vessel smelled a little too fishy for the event organisers to stomach.
The crew on the Kallianassa caught the only white marlin that met the qualifying standards for the top prize out of the 23 white marlin that were weighed-in when the event was staged from August 8-12.
The group, including top prize-winner Phillip Heasley of Naples, Florida, were crowned winners of the event and presented with a novelty-sized cheque of $US2,818,662 before organisers began to suspect the crew's story was too good to be true.
The White Marlin Open has issued a statement, casting doubts about the Kallianassa crew's compliance with the terms and conditions of the contest.
Because of the huge prize money at stake, all competitors who won more than $50,000 were required to take a polygraph lie-detector test.
Heasley failed the test twice, according to the event organisers.
Tournament officials filed documents in the Worcester County Circuit Court, claiming Heasley was administered two polygraph exams by two different examiners and failed them both.
The tournament organisers are accusing Heasley of catching the fish or having his lines in the water before the competition officially began at 8:30am on August 9.
The court documents also claim the captain and several shipmates on the Kallianassa were also administered polygraph tests and questioned about when the ship first had lines in the water and if Heasley had any assistance reeling in the event-winning fish.
They all failed, according to the court documents.
A statement from the White Marlin Open claims the rules of the event were violated by Heasley.
"Subsequent investigation as required by the rules and regulations of the White Marlin Open indicated a possible violation of the rules," the statement said.
"Accordingly, in an effort to achieve the utmost fairness, the White Marlin Open directors met with independent judges and complete information was provided to the judges for their input with regard to the issue of the potential violation of the rules.
"After much discussion, and providing evidence of the possible violation of the tournament rules, the judges agreed that the prize would not be awarded to the boat catching the qualifying white marlin, but would, in accordance with the rules of the tournament, be withheld pending the determination of the proper recipient of the prize money.
"The White Marlin Open strives to obtain the highest integrity and level of transparency in fairness in all of its awards and determination of adherence to the rules and regulations in all cases. It is for these reasons that the tournament directors, in co-ordination with the independent judges in the tournament, have made the determination to withhold the winning prize until it can be ensured that the prize is being paid to the proper recipient thereof."
Heasley has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
"The Kallianassa's excellent crew and superb captain have always maintained the highest levels of integrity," Heasley said, according to marlinmag.com.
"They will be vindicated and walking tall in the fishing community."
The top prize could now be shared between 13 fishermen who were declared winners of lesser categories during the contest, including some registered entries of blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, shark and dolphin.