Time Telepictures Television has dispatched a producer to Minneapolis to investigate the origin of a bogus “Extra” interview that aired on both the syndicated newsmag and during a newscast on the CBS-owned Minneapolis outlet WCCO.

“Extra” and WCCO had claimed that the interview, which aired last Thursday, featured the first public comment from a man alleged to be the personal thief to a well-to-do Minnesota family.

The story of the Dick family and their luxury goods shoplifter, Gregory Eugene Thomas, has drawn national attention and press coverage. However, the “Extra” interview, which was conducted by a freelance producer, was apparently with an impostor with a similar name, Gregory Lavelle Thomas, according to a WCCO spokeswoman.

WCCO realized the story was fake when viewers called in to complain. The station has twice apologized on the air and is now developing new inhouse written guidelines on the use of footage from non-network affiliate sources.

“We take all of this very seriously,” said a spokeswoman for Warner Bros., which syndicates “Extra.” The show’s executive producer said Thursday’s telecast will acknowledge that the program was victim of a hoax.

Sources say “Extra” did not pay the phony thief for the interview, and the freelance producer is someone the show has hired in the past. Sources close to the newsmag add that the impostor not only shared the same name as the alleged thief, but he looked physically similar, too.

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