VIDEO: Ex-Colleague Says Heene Planned Balloon Hoax

updated 10/20/2009 at 08:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/2009 08:00AM



While Colorado's Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said Monday that it may take a week for charges to be filed against Richard Heene for his role in the alleged balloon hoax of last Thursday, a former business associate of Heene's is making the interview rounds to provide further background on the purported wannabe reality TV superstar.

Robert Thomas appeared on Tuesday's Today, where he described Heene, 48, as "a very creative individual. Hyperactive … driven by fame and promoting himself." When he saw the news footage of the Mylar balloon floating over Colorado skies last Thursday, Thomas says he thought to himself, "Who would possibly do something like this? It has to be Richard Heene."


What Thomas did not touch upon, but has been reported elsewhere, is that Thomas, a 25-year-old college student, shares some of Heene's offbeat ideas on weather. Also, according to the New York Post, Heene is convinced that he was once abducted by extraterrestrials and that Armageddon will arrive in 2012.

The newspaper also says that Thomas – who sold an interview about Heene to Gawker.com for an undisclosed fee – supplied authorities with evidence that Heene "intended to perpetuate a hoax intended to drum up interest in a reality show," according to Thomas's attorney, Linda Lee. "[Thomas] thinks [the balloon launch] went off prematurely," and says that Heene had been planning the stunt – which involved the Heene's 6-year-old son, Falcon – for months.

On the legal side, "We do not anticipate completing our reports and presenting this case filing to the district attorney until next week," Larimer County sheriff's spokeswoman Eloise Campanella told the Denver Post.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus also said that his agency is investigating last Thursday's incident. Speaking to FOX News Monday, Sheriff Alderden said the FAA could fine the Heenes up to $2 million.

Richard Heene's lawyer said he looks forward to examining the sheriff's evidence against his client. The attorney also told ABC's Good Morning America that Richard and wife Mayumi, 45, have taken polygraph tests, though he is not aware of their results.

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