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Arrest Frenchman in Sale of Fake Chernobyl Film to Television

May 15, 1986

............................................................................... (AP) _ A 24-year-old Frenchman has been arrested on charges he duped two U.S. television networks by selling them videotape that purportedly showed the burning Chernobyl nuclear plant, police said Thursday.

Instead, the ABC and NBC networks showed footage Monday night of a burning cement factory in Trieste, Italy. On Wednesday night, the networks told viewers they had found out the tape was a hoax and apologized.

The suspect, Thomas Garenq, was picked up overnight and charged with fraud, police said.

Italy’s state-run RAI television network, which also showed the film after it was made available through Eurovision, was the first to call the footage a fake.

RAI said numerous callers from Trieste, near the Yugoslav border, said the pictures they saw on television actually showed areas outside their city.

The ANSA news agency, quoting unidentified police sources, said Garenq received more than $2,000 each from the two American networks as an advance. The purchase price was $20,000, the sources told ANSA.

It did not elaborate as to how Garenq obtained the footage.

In New York, spokesmen for the two American networks said they bought the tape from an agency named Albatross for a total of $11,000 but that no checks have been forwarded to the agency.

″The unfortunate conclusion is that NBC News was the victim of fraud,″ Bill McAndrews, news information manager for the network, said Wednesday. ″We regret the incident.″

On ABC’s ″World News Tonight,″ anchorman Peter Jennings said, ″We and others were the victims of fraud.

″We were badly misled, we misled you and as you can imagine we’re not very happy about it,″ he said at the end of the show. ″It’s one mistake we’ll try not to make again.″

Howard Stringer, executive vice president of CBS News, which did not use the film, said: ″We were initially concerned because we didn’t have it. Then when we saw it on the air, it was not very revealing.″

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