German 'Forest Boy' gets community service after hoax

Sept. 26, 2013 at 2:47 PM
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BERLIN, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- "Forest Boy," who duped German officials into believing he lived in the wilderness for years, was sentenced to community service Thursday for fraud.

Robin van Helsum, in his early 20s, gained fame in 2011 when he entered Berlin's City Hall and claimed to be "Ray," a dweller in a nearby forest. He said he did not know his last name, and had lived in the wilderness since his father's death in a fall, NBC News reported.

His story was uncovered as a hoax after his photograph appeared in European media. A woman in the Netherlands contacted police in 2012 to report "Forest Boy" was her stepson, who disappeared the previous year.

A legal settlement was arranged Thursday during his trial for fraud, in which prosecutors demanded van Helsum return approximately 30,000 euros ($40,445) he received from German youth organizations.

Court spokesman Tobias Kaehne said van Helsum could have received a similar amount in government benefits as a homeless adult, and thus would not be ordered to make financial restitution.

"The loss to the taxpayer is either nothing or very small," Kaehne said.

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