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Richard Heene, Balloon Boy Dad, Expected To Face Criminal Charges

First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:20 PM ET

Watch Sheriff Jim Alberden's Sunday Morning Press Conference:

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(AP) FORT COLLINS, Colo. - A Colorado sheriff said Sunday it was hoax when parents reported that their 6-year-old son was in a flying saucer-like helium balloon hurtling away from their home when he was actually hiding in the garage.

Sheriff Jim Alderden said Richard and Mayumi Heene "put on a very good show for us, and we bought it."

"We believe that we have evidence at this point to indicate that it was a publicity stunt done with the hopes of marketing themselves or better marketing themeslves for a reality television show at some point in the future," Alderden said.

The sheriff says no charges had been filed yet, and the parents weren't under arrest. He said he expected to recommend charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant.

Some of the most serious charges each carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

He said all three of the Heenes' sons knew of the Thursday hoax, but likely won't face charges because of their ages. The oldest son is 10.

Some of the most serious charges each carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Heene, a storm chaser and inventor, and his family have appeared on the reality show "Wife Swap."

Alderden said interviews with the parents Saturday resulted in enough information to get a warrant to search the house. He said they were looking for computers, e-mails, phone records and financial records.

The sheriff said they discovered the balloon basket 6-year-old Falcon was made of a thin piece of plywood and cardboard held together with string and duct tape.

Aldreden said the children were still with the parents, and child protective services has been conacted to investigatethe children's well-being.

Suspicion that the balloon saga was a hoax arose almost immediately after Falcon was found hiding in the garage.

Alderden initially said there was no reason to believe the incident was a hoax. Authorities questioned the Heenes again after Falcon turned to his dad during a CNN interview Thursday night and said what sounds like "you said we did this for a show" when asked why he didn't come out of his hiding place.

Falcon got sick during two separate TV interviews Friday when asked again why he hid.

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Update: In a press conference Sunday, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alberden confirmed on Sunday morning that his office believes that the saga of Falcon Heene, a boy believed to have been trapped in a wayward balloon, was a "hoax" and a "publicity stunt."

He said that no charges had been pressed yet, but he listed the charges he expected to be filed eventually. Among them were attempting to influence a public official, a class four felony. On Saturday, Alberden had expressed concern that the Sheriff's office would only be able to file misdemeanor charges against the Heenes.

The Heene family, if convicted, will have to pay for the rescue operations, the cost of which is still unknown, but will range in the thousands.

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Update: The Denver Post reports that the Heene's have returned top their home after spending the night in a Motel 6 while police searched their home.

According to the AP, several boxes and computers were removed from the house.

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Update: From CNN:

Authorities in Colorado say criminal charges are expected to be filed against Richard Heene, a storm-chasing father whose giant Mylar balloon ascended into the sky earlier this week, sparking fears that his 6-year-old was aboard.

"We do anticipate at some point in the future, there will be some criminal charges filed with regards to this incident," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said.

The announcement came after a second round of meetings between the Heene family and the Larimer County Sheriff's office on Saturday. The Sheriff's Office is expected to specify the charges in a press conference Sunday morning.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alberden was quoted by the AP as expressing disappointment that his office could only file misdemeanor charges:

"We were looking at Class 3 misdemeanor, which hardly seems serious enough given the circumstances," Alderden said. "We are talking to the district attorney, federal officials to see if perhaps there aren't additional federal charges that are appropriate in this circumstance."

According to the Denver Post, the Sheriff's Office is working on obtaining search warrants for the Heenes' house.


Watch Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alberden announces that charges will be filed:

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After promising a "big announcement set for 10:00 Saturday morning, Richard Heene, father of the 6-year-old 'balloon boy' left his house with a box for reporters to place questions.

Watch below:

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Watch: Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alberden's Press Conference From Earlier Today:


Update: The AP is reporting that local law enforcement officers have suspected Richard Heene of abusing his wife, but there has never been sufficient evidence to press charges:


The Larimer County Sheriff's deputy who went to the home said he heard a man yelling and, once inside, noticed Mayumi Heene had a mark on her cheek and broken blood vessels in her eye. She said it was because of a problem with her contacts.

Richard Heene said he was yelling because his children stayed up past their bedtime.

The deputy concluded he didn't have probable cause to make an arrest, but believed a physical altercation may have occurred. No charges were filed.

It was one of three 911 calls made from the home within the past year, but the only one in which a report was filed.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Aldereden said in a press conference Friday that his office spoke with the county child protection agency about the case in which 6-year-old Falcon Heene was thought to have been trapped in a flying-saucer-shaped balloon.

The Denver Post Reports:


Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said today that his agency has talked with the county's child protection agency about the Fort Collins family that lost control of an experimental balloon Thursday.

The AP adds that the Sheriff said there was no indication that the ordeal was a hoax. Read the story below.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- The Larimer County sheriff in Colorado says they have no indication a family was carrying out a hoax when they reported their 6-year-old son was in a helium balloon that floated away from their home.

The boy was found hiding in the home's garage Thursday afternoon, hours after the balloon launched and traveled more than 50 miles.

Sheriff Jim Alderden said Friday the suggestion that the boy, Falcon Heene, was coached to hide seems inconceivable. He says the boy thought he was responsible for the balloon coming untied and hid because he was afraid he'd be in trouble.

Questions were raised about the incident after the boy said "we did this for a show" in a live interview with CNN. The boys' parents are storm chasers who appeared in the ABC reality show "Wife Swap."

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Filed by Ethan Axelrod  |