A man who told his girlfriend he had been kidnapped as an excuse to stay out partying sparked an overnight man-hunt, Greater Manchester Police said.
The 32-year-old made his girlfriend believe he was being held hostage and that his "kidnapper" would not let him return until he had paid a £50 debt.
In fact, he was enjoying himself at a house party in Bolton in the early hours of this morning.
Detective Inspector Jo Clawson said it was "without doubt one of the most foolish and irresponsible incidents I have been involved in".
The girlfriend who was "beside herself" called police after speaking to his "kidnapper" on the phone and receiving a number of text messages.
More than a dozen officers began an urgent investigation, which included house to house enquiries, checking CCTV and analysing mobile phone data in a bid to find him.
A number of houses were searched and a man arrested on suspicion of kidnap - but he was later released when he admitted it was a "ruse" to allow his friend to stay out longer.
Police then tracked down the time-waster at the party in Shurmer Street shortly before 1.30am.
Detective Inspector Jo Clawson said: "The man's girlfriend was absolutely beside herself with worry and genuinely concerned that he would come to harm.
"Rightfully, based on what she knew at the time, the matter was reported to police.
"Considerable resources and time then went into finding this man, who it transpires made the entire thing up so he could stay out and party.
"This is without doubt one of the most foolish and irresponsible incidents I have been involved in.
"Significant resources were taken off the front line on a Friday night, which is without exception one of the busiest times of the week."
She added that he was "fortunate" to not have been charged but that officers decided not to waste more police resources and public money by putting him through the court system.
Instead he was given a fixed penalty notice for wasting police time and the matter was recorded as a criminal conviction on his record.