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Father in balloon incident a felon

FORT COLLINS - 9Wants to Know has learned the father of the 6-year-old boy thought to be in a runaway helium balloon in Fort Collins last week has a criminal felony record in California.

The records do not say what happened to cause Heene to be arrested and convicted of the assault with a deadly weapon.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden says if there is such a conviction against Heene, it would be important to the sheriff's office's ongoing criminal and child-welfare investigation.

"It would be pertinent to the welfare of the children and to our determination about if they are in a safe environment and our investigation into the hoax," Alderden said.

The sheriff says his office, along with Larimer County Department of Social Services, is trying to determine if the children are suitably placed in the home.

"We have videos on the Internet that suggest there may be some child endangerment because if you exploit your child, that could be abuse. Exploitation would include taking them into dangerous situations, such as storms," Alderden said.

The Heene family has posted several YouTube videos of themselves chasing storms across the country with their three children in tow.

The sheriff says detectives also have concerns about the home being cluttered with trash and the lack of food.

The sheriff's office is still conducting interviews, gathering paperwork and preparing to submit the evidence to the district attorney's office next week.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also opened an investigation because departing flights were temporarily diverted to alternate runways at Denver International Airport during last Thursday's incident.

The Heene family set off a media storm after it accidentally released an experimental balloon and thought their son Falcon was inside one week ago. Law enforcement tracked the balloon as the Colorado National Guard deployed helicopters and worked on rescue plans. Falcon later climbed out of a hiding place in the attic where he said he had been all afternoon.

While the family says it was an honest mistake, the sheriff's office is calling it all a publicity stunt and is encouraging prosecutors to press charges.

Heene and his lawyer, David Lane, did not return calls for comment.

If you have any news tips, please e-mail 9Wants to Know Investigator Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com./>

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