Pennsylvania man charged in hoax that led to plane recall
PHILADELPHIA – A man was charged Friday with making a hoax threat that led authorities to recall a Texas-bound plane in midair and force an unwitting passenger off the plane at gunpoint.
The midair explosives scare was apparently the result of a love triangle, according to an affidavit that accompanied the charges filed against Kenneth W. Smith Jr.
Smith called police at the Philadelphia airport Thursday morning to report that a passenger heading to Texas was carrying a liquid explosive, authorities said.
Officials then recalled US Airways Flight 1267 -- which was about 90 miles away -- to Philadelphia, where the plane was surrounded by law enforcement and passenger Christopher Shell was taken off at gunpoint. Authorities later said he did nothing wrong.
During questioning, Shell told authorities of a feud involving him, his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend "Kenny." Shell had recently traded "hostile messages" on his cellphone with his ex-girlfriend about the situation, according to the affidavit.
Shell gave officers the name of Smith's workplace, where he was questioned. Authorities said Smith admitted he made the call from a payphone to "avenge" the ex-girlfriend, because Shell had posted a compromising picture of her on Facebook.
Smith, 26, of Philadelphia, was charged with conveying false information that interfered with aviation and using an instrument of commerce -- the phone -- to do so.
He was scheduled for an initial appearance in federal court on Friday afternoon. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and possible restitution.
Authorities had stressed on Thursday that Shell was blameless for the scare. He continued his travel late Thursday to Texas, where he planned to celebrate his 29th birthday with friends and family, but authorities arrested him when he arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Texas authorities said Shell had outstanding warrants for two drug-possession charges -- less than 2 ounces of marijuana and less than 28 grams of a controlled substance. He was jailed Friday morning on $3,000 bond in Collin County near Dallas.