A 26-year-old pizza cook was arrested for allegedly telephoning an airport and saying a passenger flying to Dallas/Fort Worth was carrying liquid explosives.
It was a love triangle. Or, as the Philadelphia Inquirer aptly put it, a 21st century love triangle involving text messages and Facebook postings.
The incident began when Christopher Shell allegedly posted a picture of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. The picture has been described as "compromising." The woman's current boyfriend, Kenneth Smith Jr., decided to get even with Shell for posting the picture.
On Thursday, Shell, a resident of Philadelphia, was flying from Philly to Dallas/Fort Worth to celebrate his 29th birthday with family and friends at his home in Texas. Smith allegedly went to a pay phone, called the Philadelphia International Airport, and told them Shell had smuggled liquid explosives onto the plane.
US Airways Flight 1267, with 74 people on board, was about 90 miles out of Philadelphia when the pilot announced the plane was returning to the Philadelphia airport due to technical problems. When the plane landed, heavily armed police boarded the aircraft and took Shell off at gunpoint.
Shell told them about the feud he was having with Smith and his ex girlfriend and gave police Smith's work number at Three Brothers Pasta & Pizza. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Shell, who was not in possession of any explosives, told agents "his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend Kenny" were probably behind the hoax.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went to Three Brothers Pizza and Pasta where Smith allegedly confessed to making the call.
The Star Tribune reports Smith was charged with conveying false information that interfered with aviation and using an instrument of commerce—a phone—to do so. If convicted he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He could also be ordered to pay restitution.
The woman at the center of the triangle was not charged.
Smith appeared in Federal Court and was released on bond. His lawyer, Bill Brennan, was quoted by ABC News as saying his client was "embarrassed" by the incident. He said, "My client is very, very sobered by the amount of attention this has received. He's not very happy about it."
Shell was cleared by police of any wrongdoing on the flight but his day did not end well. Later in the day he took another flight to Texas and was arrested after the plane touched down at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. As reported by Newsday, he had two outstanding warrants for his arrest. One was for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana and the other for possession of less than 28 grams of a controlled substance.
Shell was also released on bond. It is not known whether he ended up having a happy birthday.