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Amelia Earhart: Her plane was found in 2010, says lawsuit

Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937. A lawsuit claims Amelia Earhart's aircraft was found in 2010, and it says a group fraudulently raised $1 million for a 2012 search.

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Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She disappeared in 1937 while trying to fly around the world. Was the wreckage of her aircraft found off the remote island of Nikumaroro?

(AP Photo)

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A Delaware aircraft preservation group denies a Wyoming man's claim that it found pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart's missing plane in 2010 but sat on the news so it could solicit him to pay for a later search.

Mystery has surrounded Earhart's fate since her plane disappeared in 1937 in the South Pacific. Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, but many experts believe she crashed into the Pacific a few years later while trying to establish a record as the first woman to fly around the world.

Timothy Mellon, son of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon, filed a federal lawsuit in Wyoming last week against The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery and Richard E. Gillespie, the group's executive director. Mellon, who lives in Riverside, Wyo., claims 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.

Mellon's lawsuit says 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 suit claims the aircraft recovery group intentionally misrepresented the status of its exploration to Mellon last year, telling him a discovery of Earhart's plane was yet 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.

Tim Stubson, a Casper lawyer representing Mellon, said Monday that he has viewed the images from the 2010 search that the lawsuit maintains show the wreckage of Earhart's plane.

"As a layman, it is hard to see, unless you know what you're looking at it," Stubson said of the footage, which he said he couldn't share. "Much of it relates to the landing gear and parts that are unique to the landing gear."

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