Suspect charged in plane bomb hoax

Sept. 8, 2012 at 12:27 AM
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PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- A man was charged in Philadelphia in a bomb hoax that forced a jetliner to turn around in mid-flight and his alleged victim was jailed on drug charges in Texas.

The alleged hoaxer, Kenneth W. Smith Jr., 29, was released on a $250,000 personal recognizance bond after a Friday afternoon hearing in federal court, Philadelphia's WPVI-TV reported.

In charging Smith, federal prosecutors allege he "knowingly engaging in conduct with intent to convey false and misleading information, and doing so via a telephone, an instrument of commerce."

Smith, a cook at a Port Richmond pizza parlor, is to have no contact with the target of his alleged hoax, Christopher Shell, and is to keep in touch with authorities daily, the TV station said.

Authorities allege Smith called the airport Thursday claiming to be "George Michaels" and saying a passenger on US Airways Flight 1267 was carrying explosives. The plane was already en route to Dallas and had to be called back to Philadelphia.

Shell was taken into custody but later released after allegedly telling investigators he believed his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend "Kenny" were responsible for the hoax, WPVI-TV said.

Smith was brought in for questioning and authorities allege he admitted placing the phone call in revenge because Shell had posted a compromising picture of his girlfriend on Facebook.

Smith's lawyer, William Brennan, said his client is "very embarrassed."

"He's a hard-working guy. He's been working his entire life, since he graduated high school," Brennan said. "He's never been in trouble a day in his life."

The TV station said once Shell was released in Philadelphia, he continued on to Dallas where Texas authorities arrested him on outstanding warrants for possession of 2 ounces of marijuana and less than 28 grams of a controlled substance. He was jailed Friday on $3,000 bond in Collin County near Dallas.

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