Schmuck of the Week

Balloon Boy family auctioning their helium-filled hoax: Now if only the Heenes would float away

Balloon Boy hoaxers Richard and Mayumi Heene have been prohibited by a judge from making money off their story until 2013 (and make no mistake, they will start trying one tick into New Year's Day). But that doesn't mean they can't still make some hay. Earlier this week, the Heenes, who lived in Fort Collins in 2009 when they told police they thought their son was in a homemade helium balloon that was floating out of control across Colorado skies, put that balloon up for auction online -- for $1 million!

The couple says the money -- if they get any -- will go help victims of the Japanese tsunami, and that is great if it really happens. But the wording and tenor of the website,, and a five-minute long video shows that the Heenes are much more interested in keeping their names in the news.

After all, they point out, "This is your chance to own a piece of documented media history" -- a documented piece that the Heenes perpetrated and one that duped the nation when the story went live on news outlets across the country that their son, Falcon, might be in the balloon or might have fallen out; he was eventually found in a garage.

For starters, there's a questionnaire that potential buyers must take if they want to participate in the auction. It includes such media-friendly questions as, "Do you believe flying saucers have been around for many years?" and "Would you like to see people travel every day in flying saucers?"

Then there's the fact that the winner -- if the balloon sells for $50,000 or more -- will get balloon-building photos of the Heenes, who were both charged with crimes in connection with the hoax. (The auction ends June 7).

And finally, there is the price: $1 million.

Which is a garish way to flaunt the fact that Heenes, previous Shmuck of the Week award winners, are, and continue to be, gas-filled shmucks.

More from our Shmuck archive: "Sarah Palin's mail coming to Denver thanks to the USPS, but thankfully not Sarah Palin."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes