Balloon Boy Hoax Confirmed
Colorado officials say they have evidence that shows the launch of a helium-filled balloon from Fort Collins last Thursday was a publicity stunt. Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden told a news conference Sunday that Richard and Mayumi Henne cooked up the hoax, in which their six-year-old son Falcon was initially reported to be on board the flimsy structure, to launch a reality TV series. Falcon was allegedly in a box in the attic of the family's garage throughout the drama, which dominated world-wide media attention for most of Thursday. Alderden said he expects to file charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and attempting to influence a public official — all felony charges. The charges could result in up to six years in jail on each charge. A misdemeanor charge of filing a false report is also likely, he said. The charges have not been filed. Alderden said his staff needs to "regroup" after a busy weekend gathering evidence in the eye of a media storm. Alderden said evidence they've gathered indicates the hoax was planned for at least two weeks. The sheriff's office is also investigating whether some unnamed media outlets were complicit in the hoax.
Alderden defended his department's actions during all stages of the bizarre event, claiming they'd been duped by professionally trained actors who said and did the right things as the story played out. "They put on a very good show for us, and we bought it," he said. The couple recently appeared on a reality show called Wife Swap, in which families switch female heads of households for two weeks. Alderden said the "'ah-ha' moment" came for them, as it did for many people, when Falcon told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he hid in the attic "for the show." He said that prompted a concerted effort by the department to gather evidence, including separate interviews with the boy's parents. Alderden's second in command Ernie Hudson said the result of those interviews was conclusive. "There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that it is a hoax," he said.