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Facebook Post May Be Behind Airport Hoax

Federal investigators say the man who placed a hoax call about explosives on a plane was angry about a Facebook post.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Kenneth W. Smith Jr. allegedly placed the hoax call to Philadelphia Police claiming Christopher Shell was planning to board a plane with a liquid explosive. NBC10's Monique Braxton spoke to Smith's attorney who says his client is embarrassed. (Published Monday, Jan 14, 2013)

    A federal affidavit obtained by NBC10 Philadelphia identifies Kenneth W. Smith Jr. as the man who placed the hoax call to Philadelphia Police claiming Christopher Shell was planning to board a plane with a liquid explosive.

    Smith was arraigned in federal court on Friday afternoon and bond was set at $250,000.

    Plane Hoax Suspect Out of Jail

    [PHI] Plane Hoax Suspect Out of Jail
    Ken Smith leaves federal court in Philadelphia after being arraigned on several charges. Investigators say he falsely claimed Christopher Shell was taking a liquid explosive onto a plane. (Published Monday, Jan 14, 2013)

    Smith is the current boyfriend of Shell's ex-girlfriend, and investigators say he was seeking revenge over a compromising picture allegedly posted by Shell on Facebook.

    Shell was taken off US Airways flight 1267 Thursday morning in handcuffs at Philadelphia International Airport.

    The plane took off at 8:06 a.m. in Philadelphia and was told to return to the airport at 8:22 a.m.

    Federal investigators say Smith placed a call to police at 7:20 a.m. Thursday and said Shell was scheduled to fly from Philadelphia to Dallas-Fort Worth that morning and was planning to attempt to get through security with a liquid explosive.

    Charges Expected Friday for Man Behind Hoax

    [PHI] Man Behind Airplane Hoax Expected to be Charged Friday
    Police say the new boyfriend of the hoax victim's ex-girlfriend is facing a slew of federal charges. (Published Friday, Sep 7, 2012)

    Smith identified himself as George Michaels, according to the affidavit, and gave police a fake Philadelphia address and phone number.

    Investigators believe Smith knew about Shell's travel plans because Shell wrote about it on his Facebook page, which is public.

    Hoax Victim Arrested in N. Texas

    [DFW] Hoax Victim Arrested in N. Texas
    It's been a turbulent 24 hours for a former North Texas man. Christopher Shell, an airline passenger at the center of a mid-air security scare, has been a suspect, a victim, and now an inmate. (Published Friday, Sep 7, 2012)

    Once it was determined Shell had no explosives on him or in his luggage, he told investigators he believed Smith, who he referred to as Kenny, was behind the call, according to the affidavit.

    Shell showed investigators hostile messages on his cell phone between himself and his ex-girlfriend about her interaction with Smith, according to the affidavit.

    Investigators say Shell told them he also had engaged in hostile exchanges with Smith in the past and he told investigators where Smith works.

    Shell was not charged and took a later flight to Dallas-Fort Worth where he was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

    Police officers and federal agents went to Smith's workplace, which the affidavit does not identify, and arrested Smith.

    According to the affidavit, during an interview Smith told investigators he was the person who called the Philadelphia Airport Police posing as George Michaels.

    He told investigators he and others decided Wednesday night to place the call and he got up Thursday morning and made the call from a payphone.

    Smith said he did it to "avenge" Shell's ex-girlfriend because Shell posted a compromising picture of her on Facebook, according to the affidavit.

    Smith was charged Friday by criminal complaint with violating federal law by knowingly engaging in conduct with intent to convey false and misleading information, and doing so via a telephone, an instrument of commerce.

    If he's convicted, Smith faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and possible restitution.