FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The parents who set off a worldwide drama by reporting their 6-year-old son was inside a flying saucer-like helium balloon hurtling over Colorado concocted the stunt to market themselves for a television show, a sheriff said Sunday.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said at an extraordinarily candid news conference that the boy, Falcon Heene, may not have even been hiding in the rafters of the family’s garage during the intense five-hour search for him Thursday afternoon.

“For all we know he may have been two blocks down the road playing on the swing in the city park,” the sheriff said.

Alderden said the parents Richard and Mayumi Heene “put on a very good show for us, and we bought it.”

The sheriff said no charges had been filed yet, and the parents weren’t under arrest. He said he expected to recommend charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant.

Some of the most serious charges each carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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