CASPER, Wyo. -- Tim Stubson calls it the Wyoming version of the three-card monte.
The lawyer represents a Wyoming son of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon, who claims he was defrauded after donating more than $1 million to help find the plane of famed pilot Amelia Earhart somewhere in the South Pacific off the coast of Hawaii.
The only problem, Stubson says, is the crash site had already been found.
“My client gave the money based on certain representations,” Stubson told the Los Angeles Times. “Those representations aren’t true.”
In June, Timothy Mellon sued the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery of Delaware and its executive director, Richard E. Gillespie.
Mellon, who lives in rural Riverside, Wyo., says the concern took the money without telling him it had already found the wreckage of Earhart's Lockheed Electra in its 2010 search of the waters around the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro.
For decades, the search has gone on for the remains of the plane. In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, and she was trying to become the first woman to fly around the globe when she and her plane disappeared in the South Pacific.
The recovery group, which has been searching for Earhart's plane for more than 20 years, denies that it found the wreckage. The discovery would undoubtedly be a gold mine, triggering movies, books and more.
Lawyer John Masterson, who represents the group and Gillespie, on Tuesday told U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl that the allegations are a "factual impossibility."
He said it was absurd for Mellon to argue that the group had found Earhart's plane but kept the search going to fleece donors. Stubbs says an underwater video taken during the search shows the plane, a claim Masterson denies.
The judge will issue a decision as soon as possible on Masterson's request to dismiss the case.
Stubbs told the Times that Mellon has learned a lesson in the case: “Look hard and know what you’re getting into.”
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