CASPER, Wyo. (AP) – A hearing was underway Tuesday involving a federal lawsuit filed by a man who claims he was defrauded by a group that solicited money to search for the plane of Amelia Earhart after it had already been discovered in the South Pacific.
Timothy Mellon, son of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon, in June sued the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery of Delaware and its executive director, Richard E. Gillespie.
Mellon, who lives in Riverside, Wyo., says the group solicited $1 million from him last year without telling him it had found Earhart’s plane in its underwater search two years earlier. Earhart’s plane disappeared over the South Pacific in 1937.
The group and Gillespie deny that they found the wreckage of Earhart’s plane, saying they would have no financial gain by hiding the discovery.
They are asking U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl to dismiss the lawsuit.
Mellon’s lawsuit said the 2010 search in the waters around the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, about 1,800 miles south of Hawaii, captured underwater images of the wreckage of the Lockheed Electra flown by Amelia Earhart when she disappeared in 1937.
The lawsuit contends the aircraft recovery group intentionally misrepresented the status of its exploration to Mellon last year, telling him a discovery of Earhart’s plane was possible if he supported the search.
The lawsuit states Mellon contributed stock worth more than $1 million to the 2012 search and accuses the organization of engaging in a pattern of racketeering to defraud him.
In denying Mellon’s claim, the group has said it isn’t aware of any videographic or forensic expert who has validated Mellon’s conclusions that the plane has been found.
The group is raising funds for another search that could occur as soon as the end of next year.
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