Amelia Earhart Lawsuit: Did Investor Get Cheated Out Of $1M During Search For Lost Plane? [REPORT]

By Philip Ross on June 12, 2013 3:41 PM EDT

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Famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart is pictured with her Lockheed Electra 10-E before her ill-fated quest to fly around the world in this undated photograph. (Photo: Reuters)
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Nikumaroro Island, an uninhabited Pacific coral atoll in the Republic of Kiribati. The atoll is located about 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. Richard Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), believes the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's airplane may be found near the atoll. (Photo: Reuters)

Amelia Earhart, the famed aviator who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and then perished during a round-the-world attempt five years later, is the subject -- or, at least Amelia Earhart's lost plane is -- of a federal lawsuit filed last week in Wyoming.

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Timothy Mellon, son of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon and the current chairman of Pan Am Systems, is suing The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR, the organization that took sonar images last month of what it believes to be Earhart's lost aircraft on the ocean floor, and Richard E. Gillespie, the group's executive director, alleging that they lied about when they actually found the missing aircraft.

Mellon asserts that the group found Amelia Earhart's aircraft back in 2010, but that they withheld their discovery so they could get more money out of Mellon. The chairman of Pan Am alleged that TIGHAR swindled him out of $1 million last year, telling him the money would go towards search efforts for the missing plane.

According to NewsMax, Mellon claims the aircraft recovery group intentionally misled him into believing the aircraft had not been encountered, and that only his money could make finding the plane possible.  Mellon also said he has evidence that TIGHAR already knew the location of the plane, but neglected to mention their discovery when they asked Mellon for money in 2012.  

AP reports that the lawsuit against TIGHAR, filed in Mellon's home state of Wyoming, states that Mellon contributed $1 million to the 2012 search for the lost Earhart aircraft. The lawsuit claims that the group engaged in racketeering to defraud Mellon.

Amelia Earhart's lost aircraft is believed to have been located on the ocean floor near Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean. TIGHAR recently took sonar images of what looks like the wreckage of the legendary aviator's plane.  

iScience Times noted earlier that the sonar images of what could possibly be Amelia Earhart's downed Model 10-E Electra aircraft were taken near the island where the famed pilot was believed to have taken refuge. In 2007, an expedition team sent to Nikumaroro Island, a small atoll in the Pacific Ocean about 1,800 miles south of Hawaii, found items on the island they believe belonged to Earhart and her flight companion Fred Noonan. Among the artifacts they discovered were a zipper pull that could have belonged to Earhart's flight suit, an anti-freckle cream jar, and a bone-handled pocket knife which looked a lot like the one Earhart carried.

TIGHAR vehemently denies the accusations that they misrepresented the status of their missing plane search to Mellon and that there is no forensic evidence to support the idea that the plane was found in 2010.

"TIGHAR does not possess any definitive evidence as to the whereabouts of Earhart's Lockheed Electra, and did not conclusively make any discoveries in 2010 which it's withheld," Bill Carter, one of the lawyers representing the aircraft recovery group, told AP. "All of its information and its research is compiled and available for public viewing on its website."

He added: "I would tell you that there is no financial gain for us in hiding the discovery of the most famous missing aviator in the history of aviation."

Still, Mellon claims that photos from 2010 showing what appear to be the missing parts of Amelia Earhart's aircraft definitely prove that TIGHAR knew of the whereabouts of the plane prior to 2012.

Read more from iScience Times:

Amelia Earhart Sonar: Plane Wreckage Caught On Sonar Could Be Doomed Aircraft From Legendary Aviator's Final Flight [PHOTO]

Has Amelia Earhart's Plane Been Found? Researchers Claim Video Shows Debris On Ocean Floor

Mystery solved? New evidence pins distress calls to Amelia Earhart's radio

Researchers Mount New Mission to Solve Amelia Earhart Mystery

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