Parents Likely To Face Charges In Balloon Hoax

Authorities in Colorado say the parents of a boy once thought trapped in a runaway helium balloon will likely face felony charges for what allegedly was a stunt. The Larimer County sheriff's office says the whole thing was a hoax designed to land a reality television show.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

After all the hoopla over the fate of the so-called Balloon Boy last week, police now say the whole thing was a hoax, and they plan to seek charges.

NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES: Breathless news anchors followed the progress of the homemade silver balloon shaped like a flying saucer. CNN cut away from President Obama's speech.

Unidentified Woman: Some pretty unbelievable pictures, coming to us live.

KEYES: Richard and Mayumi Heene said their 6-year-old son, Falcon, was aboard. But when the balloon landed, the family claimed that he had been hiding in the attic the whole time. Then Falcon told his father during a CNN interview…

(Soundbite of CNN broadcast)

Mr. FALCON HEENE: We did this for a show.

KEYES: As a suspicious public furrowed its brow, "Saturday Night Live" spoofed the incident, using a talking balloon to tell comedian Seth Meyers…

(Soundbite of TV show, "Saturday Night Live")

Unidentified Man: (as Talking Balloon) It was a hoax.

Mr. SETH MEYERS (Comedian, "Saturday Night Live"): Yeah, we know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Yesterday, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden agreed.

Sheriff JIM ALDERDEN (Larimer County, Colorado): On the bizarre meter, this rates a 10.

Unidentified Man: Yeah. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: But police aren't amused by the money and manpower spent on the case. Alderden says the Heenes are actors who fully involved their children in what police called a publicity stunt aimed at getting the family a reality TV show.

Mr. ALDERDEN: They put on a very good show for us, and we bought it.

KEYES: Alderden says police are recommending felony charges be filed in this case, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He adds that there's no evidence of remorse.

Allison Keyes, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: The Heenes are now represented by Denver attorney David Lane. He notes that they are willing to turn themselves in should any charges be filed.

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