Balloon hoax: CO family could face felony charges

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

FORT COLLINS, CO (WFLX) - The hot air balloon hoax is taking the world by surprise; the Colorado family, at the center of the worldwide drama last week, could face felony charges and possible time in jail for faking the disappearance of their 6-year-old son inside a runaway balloon.

The lawyer representing the boy's parents, however, says they are willing to turn themselves in.

"It was a publicity stunt done with the hopes of marketing themselves," said one investigator.

Investigators re-interviewed the Heene family Saturday, combing through their Colorado home, looked through computers and e-mails.

They now believe Richard and Mayumi Heene had been plotting the stunt for weeks to get their own reality TV show deal and instructed their three children to lie to the media and police.

"These people are actors, so, needless to say, they put on a very good show for us, and we bought it."

Investigators plan to file felony charges including conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The flyaway balloon sparked a heated, high-altitude search and worldwide concern when the Heene's reported their 6-year-old son Falcon had crawled inside just before it floated away. He was found hours later at home hiding in a cardboard box in the attic. Speculation that the incident may have been faked began almost immediately.

When Falcon made this comment on CNN: "You said it was for the show". His dad tried to explain away the comment and denied it was a set up: "Absolutely, there was no hoax".

When approached by reporters Sunday, Richard Heene teared up and said the on-going saga has become so convoluted.

His children are not likely to be charged because they are too young, but child protective services are now involved.

The attorney representing the Heenes say they are willing to turn themselves in because they want to avoid "the public spectacle and humiliation" of police arresting them in front of their children.