(DALLAS) — The motive behind a bomb hoax that caused a US Airways flight to turn back mid-trip was revenge for “compromising” pictures of an ex-girlfriend on Facebook, according to authorities.
Christopher Shell was on his way to Dallas to celebrate his 29th birthday on Thursday when his US Airways flight was turned around and forced to return to Philadelphia following a bomb scare.
A shocked Shell was handcuffed and led off the plane in a full-scale SWAT operation before authorities determined that the threat had been a hoax triggered by his ex-girlfriend’s new beau.
“During his interview with law enforcement agents, [Shell] stated his belief that his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend ‘Kenny’ were responsible for making the phone call,” according to a criminal complaint. The caller had accused Shell of boarding the plane with “liquid explosives.”
“Kenny” turned out to be 26-year-old Kenneth Smith Jr. who authorities say “voluntarily stated that he was the person who called the Philadelphia Airport police posing as George Michaels,” according to a criminal complaint.
“Smith stated that his motive for doing so was to ‘avenge’ [Shell’s] ex-girlfriend, of whom [Shell] has posted a compromising picture on Facebook,” the complaint stated.
If convicted, Smith faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and possible restitution. Smith is expected to make his first court appearance this afternoon.
Smith’s girlfriend, who is Shell’s ex-girlfriend, was not charged or identified by authorities and was released by authorities after questioning.
Investigators may continue to look for a third party to the illegal “vicious prank,” authorities told ABC News.
Shell’s terrible birthday only got worse. After being searched, interviewed and cleared, Shell boarded another flight to Dallas. But when he arrived at the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport, he was arrested by airport police on two outstanding warrants for possessing marijuana.
One warrant was for the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. The other was for the possession of less than 28 grams of a controlled substance.
Shell spent the night of his birthday at the DFW airport jail and was transferred to the custody of the Collin County Police this morning, according to the airport police.
The birthday may not be a total loss for Shell. Before his arrest on Thursday, Shell posted to Facebook that he was looking to sell an interview to the highest bidder.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jethro Mullen, Ravi Hiranand and Frank Pallotta, CNN
Jason Hanna, CNN
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Sara Zendehnam, CNN