Revenge at 35,000 Feet: The Philadelphia Plane Hoax

Meet the guy who phoned in a fake bomb threat just to get back at the guy who humiliated his girl.
7:39 | 01/11/13

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Transcript for Revenge at 35,000 Feet: The Philadelphia Plane Hoax
Faking it returns with dan harris and fakes on a plane. Security scare at philadelphia international airport. Reporter: Just days before the anniversary of 9/11. And philadelphia has just been put on terror alert. 7:00 this morning a call comes in to authorities saying there's somebody on that plane that has explosives. Reporter: It looks like the climax of an action movie. But believe it or not, this is actually the final act of an outrageous and absurd love triangle. The dangerous liaisons of kenny, chris and a brunette we'll call carmela. So let me just get this straight. This whole thing -- was about a girl? Yup. About a girl. Reporter: Our story bins here, among the blue-collar row houses of north philly -- at this local pizza joint where 26-year-old kenny smith is making ends meet slinging slices. Carmela, who didn't want to talk to "20/20," is working here too, and within weeks of getting the gig, kenny has fallen hard for his comely co-worker. Honestly within two months, i knew I loved this girl. Reporter: Kenny thinks he's found the one. Carmela thinks she's found one of the ones. She wants to see other people too. So at some point she started seeing this other guy, chris? Yeah, chris. Reporter: Enter christopher shell, a transplanted texan with a white-collar job in the utilities biz. She was beautiful. She was fit, ambitious, she had goals. My grandmother would have been so excited if I brought an italian girl home! Reporter: Just like kenny, chris wants carmela all to himself. Barely a couple of days after they met, he tried getting her to like, cut me out of her life. He didn't even know me. I never said she should cut him out, but she portrayed it to me that she didn't want to be in a relationship with him. Reporter: Chris and kenny never meet, but they have a testosterone fueled slap down online over carmela. When she basically chooses kenny, chris has one last post, and here is where things really take off. What did he do? He posted an inappropriate picture of her. Inappropriate hardly describes it. Reporter: He put a naked picture of her on facebook? Yes, for her friends, family, nieces, you, everybody to see. The facebook photo was to say, "hey, see you later! I had my fun! Bye!" Reporter: What was her reaction when this happened? She was mortified. She probably cried for three hours straight. It breaks your heart, man. I wanted him to pay for what he did. Reporter: A noble impulse, perhaps. But what happens next is anything but. Kenny's payback would come from this pay phone on a warm september morning when chris is a few miles away at the philadelphia airport, about to fly to dallas. SEPTEMBER 6th, IT WAS MY Birthday. I was very excited to get on the plane. Reporter: Right about then kenny is dialing the airpo rt police from the payphone. Our operations room supervisor at the airport police headquarters picks up the phone. Reporter: The call was not recorded. What did you say? I gave them his name, his flight info, told them you know, that there was a strong possibility that he had drugs on him. Reporter: Kenny has no clue if chris is actually carrying drugs. He's just thinking that if chris gets hassled at security, maybe that will help win back his girlfriend's honor. I simply wanted to inconvenience one person. Unfortunately, it got a little out of hand. Reporter: That's because when the officer on the phone doesn't seem to take him seriously enough, kenny says he comes up with something else. It wasn't a long conversation and it didn't take him long to get to the part about liquid explosives. Reporter: So here we are, a couple days before the anniversary of 9/11, you're on the phone trying to bust this guy. And you drop the words "liquid explosive." Yes. Reporter: I mean, I think it's fair to say that's phenomenally irresponsible right? Oh, absolutely, completely moronic. Reporter: Moronic, but effective. Airport security immediately goes into emergency mode, but the plane is already in the air. We have to get this plane back on the ground, and we have to remove that passenger. Reporter: So somewhere over harrisburg, pennsylvania, the plane turns around and heads back to philadelphia where it lands in a remote corner of the airport. You can see there are quite a few vehicles from the philadelphia police department, Reporter: On board, chris and the other passengers have no idea what's up as a five-man armed s.W.A.T. Team storms the plane. They all boarded from the back of the plane. I'm looking to see if there's a terrorist. Next thing I know they have their guns drawn and their lasers pointed at me. I hear them say put your hands up! Put your hands up! So, of course, I do and at that point in time they took me off the plane and put me in handcuffs. Reporter: But inspector sullivan says he realizes right then and there this is probably a hoax. 30 years of police sense, when I saw the look in mr. Shell's eyes -- he probably was not a threat. I was very scared. They wouldn't even allow me to ask questions, so that is what really freaked me out. Reporter: Meanwhile the scene is playing out on live tv. There is an individual in police custody answering questions as to what his intentions were. They said you had a bomb on the plane. I said what? All this is going on because someone said I had a bomb on the plane. I just told them the only people that could be an enemy of mine would be this guy, kenny smith. Reporter: Kenny is the only one in town who really knows what's going on. He's at work back at the pizza place, and the tv is on. And here you are in a pizza shop chopping onions, knowing the whole time this happened because of me! Yeah. You know, everybody's like, "oh my god. You know, who would do this?" And in my mind I'm like, "i did this. Like, what is wrong with me? What did I do?" Reporter: There's not a lot of time to ponder. Incredibly within an hour, thanks in part to chris's help, u.S. Marshals have tracked kenny down. I cooperated with them fully. It all happened so fast, you know, make a phone call in the morning -- 6:00 at night, I'm sitting in a cell. He did a very foolish thing, not because he's a malicious person. Not because he is unstable, but because he was blinded by love. And it's not an excuse, but it does, I think, explain why somebody would do something so foolish. Reporter: Chris shell eventually did get to dallas, only to be arrested for an outstanding warrant for marijuana possession. So at that moment both he and kenny were both in custody. I really felt like I lost a lot after he called in. It was very hard to try to get another job after all the media. Reporter: But kenny has it much worse. To everybody who was inconvenienced that day, I am truly sorry. Reporter: He's looking at a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of perhaps 1 million bucks. So in the end who gets carmela? The face that stopped hearts -- and air traffic. The answer? Neither of them. But is that a bitter pill to swallow? That you did this thing -- absolutely! You know, I love this girl with all I have, but they say if you

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