Was 'Balloon Boy' search a hoax?

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A young boy thought to be hundreds of feet in the air in a homemade balloon was found hiding in his family's attic Thursday. But after he was found safe hiding, many are wondering if it was a hoax.

There are several things that have sparked questions. For instance, the family reportedly called the local NBC affiliate before they called police, and they have twice appeared on a reality TV show.

Television viewers were swept away in Thursday's breaking news of the swift-moving silver saucer floating across the Colorado skies. Media outlets jumped on the story that 6-year-old Falcon Heene had taken flight on his father's homemade weather balloon.

Home video captured the moments just before the balloon took flight. Falcon's father, Richard Heene, is visibly upset as it escapes. In the recording of his 911 call, he said the balloon was never supposed to leave the ground.

In an interview with CNN, Richard asked Falcon why he didn't come out.

Falcon replied, "You guys said that, um, uh, we did this for the show."

That response has spawned speculation this was a plot put together by Richard Heene himself.

In another interview with NBC's Today Show, Richard said, "Now I'm starting to get ticked off because I'm getting asked this, and what do I have to gain out of this? Absolutely not, this is not some kind of hoax."

If the Heenes are full of "hot air," Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Alicia Cook says they could face some serious consequences.

"The mere act of providing false information to police officers can put people at risk of criminal liability," Cook says.

She says if this turns out to be a tall tale, the people responsible could face, not only jail time for providing false information and evidence to police, but they could be slapped with a hefty fine and have to pay for all the resources drained on the search that spanned two counties.

"It's an incredible waste of resources," Cook says. "It's a waste of taxpayer money. It's a waste of the time of investigators who really need to be devoting their time to real crime."

And just as in the case this week in Bountiful when a man faked his own kidnapping, police say they respond to every call as an emergency and trust they're getting the truth.

"There was also enough to say it could have happened, so that's why we had to treat it like it really did happen. Until you find out otherwise, you have to go with it," says Bountiful police Lt. Randy Pickett.

Sheriffs in Colorado say they are going to re-interview the family and investigate whether their claims are authentic.

The most serious charges they could face are misdemeanor charges for providing false information and evidence to police.


Story compiled with contributions from Jennifer Stagg and Anne Forester.

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