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Media probes Botox mom's claim of fabricated story

A mother's account on national television that she injected her 8-year-old daughter with Botox is under scrutiny after reports surfaced Thursday that she made up the story for money.

ABC's "Good Morning America" and "Inside Edition" said Thursday they were launching investigations into Sheena Upton's story, which aired a week ago, after she told TMZ.com that she told the fabricated story for the promise of payment.

ABC News said it was "vigorously investigating her most recent statement and rapidly shifting story. 'Good Morning America' has repeatedly questioned Upton, members of her family and other sources who again and again stood by the Botox story. 'Good Morning America' is solely interested in getting to the truth."

A statement from "Inside Edition" also said it was investigating whether Upton's story was fabricated. "We repeatedly challenged a mother on the safety and sanity of her claims that she had injected her 8-year-old daughter with Botox," said spokeswoman Donna Dees.

Adding to the swirl of confusion, Upton appeared on the programs as "Kerry Campbell" and said she was a part-time esthetician who lived in San Francisco.

Her name was later revealed as Sheena Upton and she lived in Southern California. California records do not list her as a licensed cosmetologist. She said she gave her daughter the anti-wrinkle injection to give her a competitive edge in beauty pageants.

Upton's story and pictures of the little girl wincing as her mother injected her face caused a firestorm of criticism.

GMA reported early this week that the child was taken from her mother as Child Protective Services investigated the case. The girl was later returned to her mother under supervised custody. CPS cannot comment on individual cases.

In a statement to TMZ, Upton said she took the girl to a University of California Los Angeles dermatologist Wednesday to determine whether she has had Botox injections. The declaration states the medical exam found she had not received any such injections.

"A report of this examination was given to the Child Protective Services," the statement said.

TMZ.com later in the day posted a videotaped interview with Upton, in which she said the Botox story was a sham setup by The Sun, a London tabloid that published a story about Upton's alleged Botoxing earlier this year.

Upton claimed in the video that the Sun had her pose holding a syringe to her daughter's face in a local nail salon for a story about a mother-daughter day at the spa.

"Honestly, I don't even know what Botox is," Upton said in the video. "I was scripted to do everything."

She said The Sun paid her $200.

Upton's uncle, Joseph Upton, and other relatives who live in Southern California told the Associated Press on Thursday they could not comment. Sheena Upton could not be reached. ABC News said it has also been unable to reach her.

ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said the network did not compensate Upton for the appearance on "Good Morning America," but did pay a $10,000 licensing fee to a British broker, Claire Stephens Ltd., for the Botox injection pictures.

Under the contract, the pictures were affirmed to depict events as described and there was no staging, he said. Such payments to rights holders for still or video images are standard, he said.

Dees of "Inside Edition" declined to comment on whether the show paid Upton.

The strange saga started unfolding in February through a British reporter Ally Epstein. Epstein was working on another story in Los Angeles when Upton's cousin told her that Upton had bragged about injecting her daughter with Botox.

Epstein said she witnessed Upton inject the girl and wrote a story for Closer magazine. "There was a vial with 'Botox' on it," Epstein told the AP. "She was adamant it was Botox."

The Sun then picked up the story, followed by U.S. television.

"The Sun strongly denies any suggestion it solicited or knowingly published a false story regarding Kerry Campbell and her daughter. The article was published in good faith, in common with a large number of other news organizations around the world, after being received in full from a reputable UK news agency," the paper said in a statement to The Guardian newspaper and TMZ.

The paper also told The Guardian that it was considering legal action against Upton.

An after-hours call to the Sun rang unanswered.

Epstein told the AP that Stephens, who received the $10,000 from ABC News for the Botoxing pictures, is her partner.

Epstein said she wired Upton $5,000 on Wednesday, but Upton demanded an additional $10,000 to pay household bills, sending her a text saying "if I don't get the rest of my money, all hell will break loose tomorrow."

Upton's retraction of her story surfaced Thursday.

Epstein said she believes Upton's retraction was to impugn her reputation, noting that Upton had not challenged or disputed the previous stories that ran in the British press.

___

Associated Press Writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer contributed to this story.

Christina Hoag can be reached at http://twitter.com/ChristinaHoag

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