It was a story that captured the imagination of the world. A six-year-old boy from Colorado was thought to have climbed into a balloon which escaped its moorings.
The drama was watched on live television by millions of viewers across the globe as the balloon sailed more than 50 miles across two counties.
When it landed the boy, Falcon Heene, was nowhere to be found and officials thought he had fallen out.
Then it turned out the child was actually hiding in the rafters of his parents garage.
Now officials say the whole thing was an elaborate hoax in a bid to land a reality television show.
Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden says charges against the parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, of Fort Collins, may include conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Here's a video of the family being paraded on TV after the event. The parents are sticking to their story but Falcon says: "We did this for the show".
Investigators are also examining the possibility of there being other conspirators "including the possibility that even some of the media outlets may have had some knowledge about this," the sheriff said.
Massive resources were deployed in an attempt to rescue the boy. Denver International Airport was temporarily shut down and the National Guard scrambled two helicopters, reported to have cost $14,500.
Sheriff Alderden said the hoax was a marketing ploy by the Heenes, who have reportedly been working on a reality TV deal in Los Angeles.
Apparently documents show that a media outlet has agreed to pay cash to the Heenes over the balloon incident.
It is not clear whether the deal was signed before or after the alleged hoax, or whether that media outlet was in on the hoax.
The parents met in acting school in Hollywood and have already appeared on the US version of reality TV show Wife Swap.
The most serious charges the parents could now face each carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison.
If these allegations are true, how could parents involve their children in something like this? It beggars belief.
Source: AOL News