Balloon dad’s costly hoax

Richard Heene, the man who pulled a
hoax by saying his 6-year-old son was drifting over Colorado in a balloon, must
pay $36,000 in restitution, a judge has ordered.

As Heene completed his 90-day
sentence with home detention this month, his wife, Mayumi Heene, began serving
her 20-day sentence on weekends, according to a jail official. Her time is not
spent in a jail cell, but on a Saturday and Sunday work detail, a probation
official said.

Prosecutors said the couple staged
their son’s disappearance on 15 October 2009, to generate publicity for
themselves because they wanted to star in a reality television show.

Richard Heene pleaded guilty in
November to a felony count of attempting to influence a public servant, while
she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour of making a false report. The judge also
sentenced the couple to four years probation.

Richard Heene initially told
authorities that his son, Falcon, was drifting over eastern Colorado in a
homemade balloon that had come loose from its moorings in the family’s
backyard. Authorities raced to track the balloon while puzzling over ways to
rescue the boy inside. Their efforts received widespread news coverage that
riveted people around the nation.

When the balloon came to rest in a
field, however, Heene’s son was not inside. The boy later was found hiding in
the family’s house.

That night, during an interview
with Wolf Blitzer on “Larry King Live,” the boy gave authorities what
Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden called an “Aha! moment.”

“You guys said we did this for
the show,” Falcon said in the interview after his father asked him why he
had not come out from hiding when he heard his parents calling for him. Later
in the interview, the Heenes said their son was simply confused.

Authorities said Falcon’s mother
later admitted that the whole thing was a hoax and that Falcon was safe in
their home the whole time.