Heene Family

A former research assistant of Richard Heene, the father of balloon boy Falcon Heene, claims the elder Heene was "driven by ego and fame" and that the balloon scare was indeed a hoax, Gawker reports .

Rob Thomas, who served as Richard Heene's research assistant in early 2009, tells the site that Heene was driven by "a steadfast determination to become famous and live a Hollywood lifestyle."

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Thomas says once Heene and his family were featured on Wife Swap, Heene "wanted nothing more than to get another reality TV series," specifically a show designed to be "Mythbusters-meets-mad scientist." Thomas says he helped Heene prepare a formal television show proposal, and that Heene, meanwhile, was pitching ideas to a Wife Swap producer with whom he kept in touch. Thomas also claims Heene promised him a lead research assistant position on the TV show once it came to fruition.

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When no one seemed to be biting at Heene's proposals, Thomas says, Heene concocted a UFO-related hoax to bring "national awareness" to his family and his ideas. "We will modify a weather balloon, so that it resembles a UFO and will electrically charge the skin of the craft," Thomas says Heene told him. "We will capture the footage on film, and will utilize the media as a means with which to make our presence known to the masses."

Thomas was no longer working for Heene at the time of the balloon incident but says he is familiar with the Heene house. Thomas claims it is impossible for Falcon to have been hiding in the attic during the incident, as the family says he was.

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"There's really not so much an attic as some support beams connected with plywood," Thomas says. "Being an adult of average height, I couldn't get up into the attic if I'd wanted to, so I don't know how a six-year-old child could have gotten up there."

What do you think about Thomas' claims?