Balloon Boy Dad Richard Heene Introduces Bizarre Pickup Truck 'Transformer' (VIDEO)
Richard Heene has come a long way since October 15, 2009, when he hit what would be the bottom by anyone's standards.
On that day, Heene, a part-time actor, storm chaser and aspiring inventor from Fort Collins, Colo., attempted to hoax the world by sending a silver helium balloon into the atmosphere, and then claimed that his six-year-old son, Falcon, was aboard.
TV audiences across the country watched in amazement as the dirigible reached an altitude of 7,000 feet and traveled more than 50 miles on its hour-long journey before it landed -- without Falcon.
Shortly later, it was revealed that Falcon had been hiding in the attic all along. A few days later, Falcon revealed inadvertently on national television that the whole incident had been planned in advance.
Heene was eventually sentenced to 90 days in jail for the hoax, and ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution. His wife, Mayumi, was sentenced to 20 days of weekend jail.
Heene and his family are still trying to auction off his now infamous balloon and, according to Radar Online, he hopes to raise $100,000 for victims of the Japanese tsunami. The online auction has now been extended to June 17.
Since then, Heene and family moved to Florida and he has tried to rebuild his life by focusing on his inventions.
"I've told Mayumi for years that, one day, when I'm 50, I'm going to start marketing my inventions," Heene told AOL Weird News. "After the incident and the enormous B.S., I decided to grow up because once you become successful, you can brush it all off."
One invention that made it to market was the "Bearscratch," a piece of tree bark mounted on a door or wall so the user can scratch hard to reach parts of their body like, well, a bear.
So far, it hasn't replaced traditional back scratchers, but his newest invention could set him up for life.
It's called the HeeneDuty Truck Transformer, and it's a pick-up robot can lift over 2,400 lbs and allows truck owners to load-up and go within a few minutes.
Heene is licensing the product to AME International, a company that makes and sells tire-changing equipment all over the world, and Brett Waggoner, the VP of sales, are predicting Heene could earn as much as $65 million over the next five years -- enough to supply plenty of hot air balloons for his grandkids' grandkids.
"Richard is a crazy genius," Waggoner said. "But it's a top-notch invention and he's a driving force behind it."
The partnership between a respectable company with an international reputation and the most famous person to ever appear on the ABC reality show "Wife Swap," came up, in part, because Heene moved to Brooksville, Fla., the home office of AME International.
"We heard he had moved here and we saw what he did with Bearscratch and that led to a conversation," Waggoner said. "His notoriety can't hurt, but his enthusiasm and work ethic are what really appealed to us."
On the surface, a $17,000 price tage might sound steep, but Waggoner says that's a bargain since the robot replaces two or three workers, as well as permanent truck tool boxes that cost as much as $7,000."
The Truck Transformer has been out for a couple of days, and Waggoner is already getting orders.
That bodes well for Heene's bottom line, but he says success is not going to affect who he is.
"I've never changed," he said. "I knew one of my inventions would hit one day. I liken the last two years to a car battery. Batteries have positive and negative terminals. Most people focus on the negative. I like to look at the positive as well."
"So when all the stuff happened on October 15, 2009, most people would have focused on the negative," he added, "but I knew the pendulum would swing back full force."