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Outing An Online Outlaw
August 4, 2009 2:36 PM   Subscribe

The Smoking Gun turns the table on a group of pranksters allegedly responsible for terrorizing strangers over the phone: Outing An Online Outlaw describes how the group leader used skype, an unprotected wifi connection and his mothers bedroom to engage in what TSG calls "an orgy of criminal activity."
posted by krautland (65 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Innaccurate description: you seem to imply that this smoking blogster undertook a journalistic investigation. Everyone knows that online publications are only capable of regurgitating the hard work of honest, print media reporters.
posted by martens at 2:45 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Can someone who reads really fast tell me if this is worth reading?
posted by Dumsnill at 2:48 PM on August 4, 2009


This is great, TSG did good work here--though maybe a bit too gleeful in it's skewering...

"(it is unclear whether he used Skype to beckon cops)"

Br00tal.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2009


Oh, Canada. I'm so disappointed in you.
posted by smackfu at 2:52 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]



Can someone who reads really fast tell me if this is worth reading?
posted by Dumsnill at 4:48 PM on August 4 [+] [!]


Depends on how mad you want to get. There's not really a whole lot of interesting news and it isn't particularly well written. But still, much love to The Smoking Gun for insulting these pranking **** (there's no word harsh enough that I feel comfortable using here)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2009


Everyone knows that online publications are only capable of regurgitating the hard work of honest, print media reporters.

"EVERYONE" knows that print publications are only capable of regurgitating the hard work of honest, broadcast media reporters. RIGHT???
posted by hal_c_on at 2:54 PM on August 4, 2009


The tone of the piece is a little breathless and the prose a bit purple, but it's an interesting story, particularly if you're interested in gaping at how awful people can be to one another.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:01 PM on August 4, 2009


I read the article pretty quickly, so maybe I missed it, but does TSG talk about how they figured out who these guys were? This part makes me uncomfortable:
Malik was more cocky and carefree when he agreed to a recent TSG interview (back when he was still known to a reporter as only "Dex").
So TSG was interviewing this guy with his consent, and then later goes back to figure out who he really is and catalog his crimes?
posted by Nelson at 3:03 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. This is the most damning revelation of the pathetic life of an "internet tough guy" I've seen:
On July 21, a pair of TSG reporters approached "Dex"'s building at 1637 Assumption Street in Windsor, where he lives in the ground-floor 'B' apartment. Calling to his mother, who was standing near an open living room window, a reporter asked her to summon her son. The woman disappeared into "Dex"'s adjoining bedroom, where the pair could be heard whispering. Despite repeated requests to come out and speak with TSG, "Dex" hid with his mother in his bedroom, the windows of which were covered with plastic shopping bags, a towel, and one black trash bag.
I mean, you always want to accuse these jerks of living "pathetic, lonely lives," but in this guy's case, it's actually true.
posted by deanc at 3:04 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


though maybe a bit too gleeful in it's skewering...

I just finished the article and I'm pretty sure it's impossible to be too gleeful in skewering these guys. In fact, more glee is called for.
posted by rtha at 3:06 PM on August 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


In short, TSG outs a number of participants and includes their addresses and living situations (usually with parents, but there are a few adults with jobs of businesses of their own), and includes summaries of their criminal records (usually pot use/selling). I get the feeling that this is just the first story in a series, as there haven't been any arrests of the individuals involved.

I read the article pretty quickly, so maybe I missed it, but does TSG talk about how they figured out who these guys were?
In a TSG interview, Jeri Batsford, a Tennessee woman who was, until recently, a Pranknet regular, acknowledged her involvement in the Paltalk attacks. She admitted paying for Malik's use of a Voxel server from which he launched the DoS blitz.
I think some people have "defected" and TSG found them. I could be wrong.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:08 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh lord the phone interview with "Prankster" is such sweet sweet schadenfreude.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:10 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Depends on how mad you want to get.

This is as good a description as any. After reading about Pranknet I'm really regretting my decision to stop hunting humans for sport.
posted by quin at 3:37 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just finished the article and I'm pretty sure it's impossible to be too gleeful in skewering these guys. In fact, more glee is called for.

He tricked women into peeing on each other naked to fend of an imaginary chemical disaster, tricked a guy into driving into a hotel lobby to turn off a fire alarm he'd already tricked him into pulling. Guy's a serious sadist. I agree.
posted by scalefree at 3:39 PM on August 4, 2009


Public shaming has its place
PWNED
posted by Iron Rat at 3:47 PM on August 4, 2009


My one objection is TSG embedding MP3s of a bunch of the "pranks", which is just an opportunity to glorify them IMO. It adds nothing worthwhile to the story to hear various people being humiliated.
posted by scalefree at 3:48 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


On Prankster:
Markle also happens to be a regular at the area's only gay bar, though he is not old enough to drink and lists his orientation as "Straight" on his former MySpace page. Fellow patrons would likely be interested to learn of his frequent homophobic rants while on the Pranknet mic
As a gay man who grew up in Houston, I was curious about what options there were for a gay bar near Diboll, TX. Maybe Club Alibi, 10 miles up the road in Lufkin? Looks like a fun place. I'm astonished to find a gay club with drag queens and photos online in that part of Texas.
posted by Nelson at 3:49 PM on August 4, 2009


Reading between the lines, it appears that TSG may have undertaken this dareisayit epic enterprise because the fuckwits really were getting away with it because the law enforcement officers all lost interest when the trail of bread crumbs crossed the border.

When justice fails, gonzo 'net journalism has to step in to fill the void.
posted by localroger at 3:54 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I had no idea TSG was part of the Turner group. Are the reporters on the payroll? Good job eiher way.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:00 PM on August 4, 2009


I think some people have "defected" and TSG found them. I could be wrong.

Nah. There's plenty in the article to indicate that these guys were not the rocket scientists they thought themselves to be...did you catch that bit where TSG set up a few unique web addresses to confer with one of the site habitues and then was able to easily see from the hits to those addresses that he was forwarding the links to this Dex jagoff? It seems clear that someone who really did know what they were doing might well have been able to track these fools down, even if LEOs were having a tough time. At lot of the pranks were physically in quite small, sometimes rural places; it's unlikely that the local police who'd be doing the investigating would have the know how to deal with this sort of cybercrime.

What concerns me more is the tone of this piece, if i may wank about the future of the media in a somewhat douchy way. (I may? Thanks.) This is an outing. If it uses the word "alleged" in there once I didn't catch it. One might easily argue that no "alleged" is required when you have soundfiles in the sidebar....but that doesn't change the fact these people haven't been convicted of anything, yet. And the whole thing is chok-a-bloc with what you might call "editorializing" and sheer vindictiveness. Really, you think patrons of a local gay bar where D-Bag No. 6 hangs out "might be interested" in his homophobis rants? If some guy from Nantucket's real name were to become public, it might harm his business? Well, do you have his real name or don't you? And if you do what's holding you back? Or did you just prefer to threaten the guy in order to see him squirm?

I didnt necessarily think that journalism and vigilantism shared a border, but this piece squats right over the crossing....and you may say, what's up with all this sympathy for the devil stuff? Why do these fools need protection? Maybe they don't. But someday TSG or someone like TSG is going to be wrong with a name, or an allegation, and the mudball's not going to hit the right guy, but it's going to stick just the same. Regular journalism has never been immune to the problem either. But some of the stuffiness and exactitude of regular journalism had been developed precisely in response to the problem...
posted by Diablevert at 4:00 PM on August 4, 2009 [16 favorites]


Cyberbullies need to be held responsible, but the prose and vindictive tone of that exposé left a funny taste in my mouth.

That said, this
One Pranknet mainstay, who would likely love to see his nickname in print, fashions himself as doing a daily prank "show," like a radio DJ. The wheezing adult male, who sounds like he has a working familiarity with various stimulants, specializes in calling up female Craigslist advertisers offering baby clothes, toys, or Winnie the Pooh swings. After sweetly extracting the home address where he can come and purchase the items, the man then announces that he's headed over to rape the woman and kill her children.
made me angrier than I've been in a while. If true, I so hope this criminal is found guilty of every single one of those murder and rape threats and thrown in prison for the longest time the law allows. What a goddamned maniac.
posted by Glee at 4:05 PM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Records indicate that Malik immediately shared with Marquis the addresses of stories about Pranknet that appeared on TSG. The stories, which each carried a distinctive url that was created solely for Malik's viewing, were first provided to the Pranknet founder in e-mails sent to his Gmail account (axis.r9@gmail.com). On three occasions over the last six weeks, within minutes of Malik clicking a link (which recorded his IP address in Windsor), Marquis also looked at the story, resulting in his Scarborough IP being memorialized on TSG's servers.

Pretty sneaky, it looks like TSG spent a lot of time and energy tracking everyone involved down and collecting as much incriminating evidence about them as possible. A lot of stories about Internet criminals are blown out of proportion, but these guys really are assholes that deserve to go to jail over this.
posted by burnmp3s at 4:06 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


For shame, Mefites... we've let this damned TSG beat us to the scoop one too many times! Scooby Squad: stop smoking up in the back of that van and get back to investigating! You think we're going to replace print journalism on the strength of our witty repartee alone?
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:06 PM on August 4, 2009


Normally, I abhor the whole TSG thing, as the targets are typical people whose only crime is stupidity or celebrity (or both.) Now, however, one thing is clear: when focused on people who really, really deserve it, TSG is a wonderland of awesome.
posted by davejay at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I for one am more than happy to let TSG do the legwork & get the credit rather than have absolute sadistic garbage like the gang's original work polluting the blue.
posted by scalefree at 4:17 PM on August 4, 2009


This is an outing

Sure. Of people who used their anonymity to the worst possible effect. Then bragged that noone could find them. This is a very Larry Craig situation.

Seeing these douchemonsters hoisted by their own petard is delicious enough that I can accept a bit of the TSG's schadenfreude.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:20 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I thought TSG was all about humiliating people and feeding stories to Drudge. Where are they getting the sudden cred for ethical integrity, or journalistic due diligence?
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:22 PM on August 4, 2009


A local tobacconist clerk was recently confused by a subscriber to his electromagnetic telephone exchange who had apparently mistaken the popular brand of pipe tobacco named after the son of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Prince Consort and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, who was also known as Prince Albert before he mounted the throne and was coronated as Edward VII.

It seems this caller, a Mr. I.P. Freely, inquired as to whether the tobacconist carried the brand in a tin can rather than the larger 5 cent bag.
When the tobacconist indicated that he did indeed stock the product, Mr. Freely stated that the tobacconist had better release the aristocrat immediately. The tobacconist was at pains to clarify that he had not, in fact, kidnapped a royal personage though Mr. Freely had used harsh language and no uncertain terms that he would notify a constable to come at once and release the Prince.
After some consternation the authorities determined that the caller had used a false name to the exchange operator and there was no Mr. I.P. Freely listed among the more than 12 subscribers to the telephonic service. Spokesmen for the police were concerned that they could not possibly defeat a criminal who refused to properly identify himself and was using this new improved telegraphic technology of Mr. Edison's. Police spokeman Charles U. Farley doubted the matter would even be remembered much less repeated in polite society.

"...most people are simps looking for a handout and are deserving of abuse."
he said cowering in his room from under his mom's apron.
Wow.
...y'know what "Malik" means in Arabic? Just kinda funny.
Oblig.

You know that "print media" b.s. is just the goofs in suits playing CYA because their business model went into the toilet, right? I mean, tracking this dude down was great and it was done pretty convincingly. TSG rocks.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:23 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


"but that doesn't change the fact these people haven't been convicted of anything, yet"

Well, except for felony charge of indecency with a minor for taking naked photos of an eight year old girl....
posted by Smedleyman at 4:27 PM on August 4, 2009


Point a camera at the victims and you've got Sacha Baron Cohen's next movie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:47 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Point a camera at the victims and you've got Sacha Baron Cohen's next movie.

Eh, not quite. SBC's material mocks the "victims" on their own territory, but does not persuade them to destroy peoples property and urinate on one another under the guise of life-saving measures. There's pranking, and there's misleading with the intention of causing serious harm or damage.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:10 PM on August 4, 2009


"Sure. Of people who used their anonymity to the worst possible effect. Then bragged that noone could find them. This is a very Larry Craig situation.
Seeing these douchemonsters hoisted by their own petard is delicious enough that I can accept a bit of the TSG's schadenfreude."


No doubt. But, TSG has decided that when it feels like it gets to out people it doesn't like a publically humiliate them. Now, in this case I definitely agree with TSG. I don't like these mofos either. They are, in the purest sense of the word, despicable. I wonder, however, if my opinions will always so neatly align with TSG in the matter of who's a douchebag who deserves public humiliation. Perhaps they will. That'd be nice.

I dunno, I just have a nagging sense that there's a Spiderman Tagline Situation here.
posted by Diablevert at 5:15 PM on August 4, 2009


Cyberbullies need to be held responsible, but the prose and vindictive tone of that exposé left a funny taste in my mouth.

And the fact that the TSG are either hosting or linking to some of the most egregious pranks implies they don't have any scruples about either repeating the offence themselves, or are quite happy to use Pranknet's workproduct to increase their own hit rate.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:19 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, when Malik opts not to abuse a young female victim who has ended up on the phone with him (they are usually answering fake Craigslist ads offering something of value for free, like a laptop or concert tickets), he tries to impress her by noting, "We've made the news many times. Not for anything good." Operating without a wingman, Malik then tries to close the deal by suggesting the woman Google the phrase "KFC employees naked" so that she can get a fuller understanding of his prowess. This is apparently how Malik tries to court a gal.

For the life of me I cannot imagine a prison sentence that would not improve this guy's current position in society.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:31 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm also a little put-off that they won't name the Nantucket businessman. Unlike the other bedroom trolls, he could probably afford a lawyer, so it smacks of cowardice. Otherwise, awesome takedown.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:40 PM on August 4, 2009


I understand that TSG is basically a tabloid. But if they want people to take them seriously, then that nasty gleeful tone has GOT to go. There is no reason that they couldn't have done a better job of toning it down, and then the story would have been much more powerful IMO.

That said, I agree with Glee that the guy who threatened moms and their kids after getting their addresses by faking interest in their stuff on Craigslist... Well, if true that's seriously disturbed behavior. That guy should have to answer for the pain, suffering and deep fear he no doubt caused with that disgusting "prank".
posted by gemmy at 5:40 PM on August 4, 2009


Cyberbullies need to be held responsible, but the prose and vindictive tone of that exposé left a funny taste in my mouth.

You didn't drink the "cider" did you?
posted by Ritchie at 5:48 PM on August 4, 2009


And the fact that the TSG are either hosting or linking to some of the most egregious pranks implies they don't have any scruples about either repeating the offence themselves, or are quite happy to use Pranknet's workproduct to increase their own hit rate.

Yeah, that's pretty tasteless. Their email address is thesmokinggun@gmail.com -- I'm thinking of emailing them now to ask them to take down the calls. Also you can call Turner's main line at 404-827-1700.
posted by ubermuffin at 5:48 PM on August 4, 2009


...but don't prank-call them!
posted by ubermuffin at 5:49 PM on August 4, 2009


ubermuffin et al -- TSG aren't repeating any pranks by hosting the calls. What they are doing is hosting the evidence. Which is pretty much what TSG does.

This is pretty far beyond the usual TSG mugshot posting, and I strongly suspect what got their panties in a lather was the law's total lack of interest in doing something about these shitheads because of the border problem.

You have to realize that until TSG came along the shitheads were right. They were fucking immune. The US local authorities who cared didn't have jurisdiction to investigate, the Canadians didn't care because the victims were almost all Americans and it was "pranks," and the US Feds didn't care because it was "pranks" and not something interesting like money laundering.

So now it's all been investigated, and all the info is in one convenient place. Ignore this motherfuckers. It is not just the prankters TSG is holding up for shame here, it's the law enforcement authorities who should have done something about them long ago.

And true to this philosophy, knowing the Law has totally failed us in the matter of these fuckwits, TSG has provided the info for any properly motivated private citizens to find them and discuss the matter personally.

Vigilante justice sucks, but only when there is an alternative.
posted by localroger at 6:02 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


I don't really get how people are saying that TSG's "tone" is bad in this article. It seems really level-headed to me, and hardly condescending at all. There's only so many ways you can put a positive light on a 19-year-old sociopath cowering behind the boarded-up windows of the apartment he shares with his mom.

In fact, the details of the squalor are what grip me the most here... how many crime dramas have you seen that show the riches and success of the criminal prior to the downfall? These guys never even had that. I mean, for god's sake, even Osama bin Laden is a fucking millionaire. These kids, and half of them are literally that, are just losers. Their lives have no second act... just the pathetic start and the pathetic decline.

That's it. They're losers. Like when they catch the pedophile with his five-day beard and spaghetti-o stained undershirt. No book-selling gunfight. No songs in tribute. I guess that's what I meant in my earlier comment- the only single thing this guy had was the mystique of being clever and powerful and he just lost that. It doesn't even matter if he ever goes to jail or not, he's still a broke, ugly, unloved, fucking loser. He will never have a wife or a happy job and if he doesn't die in jail he will die alone. The people on this site are not real friends; they will never barbecue together or remember to wish each other a happy birthday. I recently lost my job, and my social life is a goddamn trainwreck- but I still have some friends, and I still have fun shit I do on weekends, and I still called my mom this afternoon and we talked about our lives and said goodbye with an "I love you too." And I don't think I've been less depressed about my current situation in a month after reading all that.

I really went in on this thinking I wouldn't be able to feel sorry for them, but I do. I feel so much sorrier for their victims, but Jesus... so fucking pathetic.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:02 PM on August 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


sheesh...it's not like drinking urine is bad for you. it's completely sterile. you could even inject it without ill effect.

don't ask me how i know this.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:14 PM on August 4, 2009


Warning. May contain eyebrows.
posted by loquacious at 6:38 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Good work for TSG, but they fall into the classic newbie reporter trap of spending half the article telling us HOW they got the story, instead of just telling the story. Most people aren't reading to learn your clever reporting techniques, they want to hear what you found!
posted by meta_eli at 7:04 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


In fact, the details of the squalor are what grip me the most here... how many crime dramas have you seen that show the riches and success of the criminal prior to the downfall?

Definitely the most interesting aspect. The prank targets are mainly low-wage, low-status service industry employees and the abuse often has strong racial overtones. It is very significant that the perpetrator is a long-term unemployed man from an ethnic minority background, living in poverty or something close to it. The pranks are obviously deeply therapeutic for him.

The prankers grandly describe their activity as "social engineering", which put me in mind of Stalin's famous speech, delivered in Maxim Gorky's IRC channel: "The production of lulz is more important than the production of tanks.... And therefore I raise my glass to you, trolls, the engineers of the human soul."
posted by stammer at 7:12 PM on August 4, 2009


Wow. Good work, TSG. Nicely done research, indeed. And IMO, just about scathing and mocking enough for these shitheels. With any luck, you've just moved them significantly closer to jail. The leaders are clearly sociopathic.

Malik wants to outjock the likes of Kyle Sandilands.

Malik is clearly destined to be imprisoned should prosecution be pressed. It just can't be legal to trick people into destroying private property. I have no doubt that historical precedent has already been set for offences much less destructive than those performed by Malic.

Kyle should probably be put through the wringer: his radio jock stunts are causing an amount of emotional distress that I believe can be successfully argued as destructive¹.

We need to nip this in the bud, or next we'll be dealing with the people who are trying to out-jock Malik. If some shitheel figures it'll get him media attention, he'll go the next step. Maybe get people to hurt themselves. Or get people to kill someone.

We're trying to have a civilization, dammit. We can't allow the sociopaths to go there.

¹Is it really legal to essentially kidnap a child with the co-operation of its parent and then use that child as a source of entertainment? Is it really legal to extort or threaten or dominate a person to the point where they reveal private personal information to which you have no legal right to know?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:13 PM on August 4, 2009


My one objection is TSG embedding MP3s of a bunch of the "pranks", which is just an opportunity to glorify them IMO. It adds nothing worthwhile to the story to hear various people being humiliated.

Yes, good media is going to have to learn that they have a role in drawing the line. Good media is going to know when salacious details are more harmful than good. If some prosecutions don't come out of these cases, TSG will have served only to encourage sociopaths to strive for greater heights of cruelty.

I note that the latter case would benefit TSGs particular interests and markets. Getting more crazies to crawl out of the woodwork is good business for them. So I guess it remains to be seen whether TSG turns out to be "good media."

I really hope their big, bold evidence and facts serve to light a fire under someone's ass in whatever crime unit should be dealing with this. Destructive pranksters need to be prosecuted, and successfully.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:29 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most people aren't reading to learn your clever reporting techniques, they want to hear what you found!

Er, speak for yourself? When print media finally gives up the ghost, I hope one of the lessons learned is that people want not just to hear the story, but how the story was obtained.

Getting more crazies to crawl out of the woodwork is good business for [TSG].

It's good for everyone, isn't it? If some misanthrope gets off on having his crimes widely known, then I have to say my interests are firmly aligned with those of said misanthrope - I want to know who he or she is and what they've done. It's the hidden misanthropes you have to worry about.
posted by Ritchie at 8:10 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm also a little put-off that they won't name the Nantucket businessman.

I'm getting the impression that by threatening to expose him, this Nantucket businessman provided TSG with whatever information they wanted.
posted by exhilaration at 8:13 PM on August 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Well done - hopefully Whitehorse RCMP has picked up on this.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:45 PM on August 4, 2009


you seem to imply that this smoking blogster undertook a journalistic investigation. Everyone knows that online publications are only capable of regurgitating the hard work of honest, print media reporters.

Huh? It's not a blog (except in the loosest sense). It's own by Court TV (now truTV). And it was founded by reporters.

In any case, TSG didn't used to do much investigation, they only published what was leaked to them.
posted by dhartung at 10:47 PM on August 4, 2009


Let me get this straight.
First "Prankster" phoned a random hotel guest, posing as the manager, and told the guy there'd been a hepatitis C outbreak, and the front desk urgently needed a urine sample from him.
Then "Prankster" called the lady at the front desk, claiming to be a representative of the Martinelli Cider Company. A colleague would soon be there, he said, with "a sample of a new apple cider" on which they wanted her opinion. "It has a fizzy sensation," he advised the woman. "It's supposed to tingle as it goes down."

That's amazing.
posted by w0mbat at 2:57 AM on August 5, 2009


I can't say that I fault the TSG for its tone in this article. These jerkoffs aren't the subject of a criminal investigation, and the TSG isn't reporting what the police say. They're reporting facts TSG independently researched and believe to be true. It's not hearsay requiring every sentence to be qualified with "allegedly".

This was a good ol' fashioned public shaming. Just exactly what they deserved.



Also, I wonder if these asshats were responsible for the prank call I got a couple years ago at about midnight. It fits their MO perfectly. It was actually amusing, despite being somewhat stressful at the time. Of course, I didn't ever really buy it... here's the transcript, for your possible amusement:

Me: Hello?

Voice: Aubrey Jones? This is Sargent Something with the Philadelphia Vice Squad. We have a warrant for your arrest for possession of narcotics. Officers are downstairs, with a SWAT team on the way. Come out peacefully and we won't have to break your door down.

[So I think, "They sent SWAT and called to provoke a standoff for, what, an eighth of grass? Bullshit." But I still started getting dressed anyway.]

Me: I see. May I ask who signed the arrest warrant?

V: The judge, asshole. Come downstairs now and we won't send in the SWAT to drag you out. [Plays a siren noise into the phone.]

Me: I don't see a squad car or a SWAT van downstairs. I don't see any cops at my door.

V: We have you surrounded. Come out now and avoid a confrontation.

Me: What's your name?

V: Sargent Something.

Me: Your full name.

V: Sargent..uh... Sam Something.

Me: Right. And now your badge number? I really don't believe you're a cop.

V: 239173

Me: Could you please repeat that, please?

V: Uh... 2...9...uh... [click]

I was still kinda jumpy for the rest of the night. I was so glad when I got rid of my landline. It takes more than a phonebook to connect my name and number now.
posted by Netzapper at 3:05 AM on August 5, 2009


Fuck these idiot morons. I just became a big TSG fan. If I were a victim of one of these pathetic little pricks, I'd be dancing for joy right now.

It's not vigilantism when it's done in public, non-anonymously, and without acting illegally, as the TSG reporters seem to have managed to do. It's a public shaming. It happens every day in America for much more trivial offenses and failings, usually sexual scandals.

This time it happened to fuckers who deserved it.

Well done.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:23 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Presumably, TSG learned the identities from the Jeri Batsford from Tennessee mentioned on page three of the article:

In a TSG interview, Jeri Batsford, a Tennessee woman who was, until recently, a Pranknet regular, acknowledged her involvement in the Paltalk attacks. She admitted paying for Malik's use of a Voxel server from which he launched the DoS blitz.

A local paper in Arkansas ran this article in mid June:

Jericho Batsford of Knoxville, the woman who called CPD, spoke with the Log Cabin Democrat Tuesday and Wednesday, saying she could confirm that "dex" was responsible for the call and was willing to cooperate with authorities in bringing criminal charges against him.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:28 AM on August 5, 2009


After reading about Pranknet I'm really regretting my decision to stop hunting humans for sport.

Then join Blackwater.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:42 AM on August 5, 2009


This whole article just made me really sad that law enforcement couldn't think of a few basic fucking things such as trapping IP addresses in order to track these guys down. How embarrassing for them.
posted by xmutex at 7:36 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The prankers grandly describe their activity as "social engineering"

Technically, they're correct about that. They're exploiting an aspect of our human nature called trust in authority. They get people to do these stupid things simply by sounding like 1. they're in charge and 2. that they know what they're doing. However, Pranknet's general philosophy calls that aspect a weakness and uses it as justification for pranks. Yeah, nothing's more fun than fucking with the norms, eh, guys? Especially if it involves serious property damage or sexual harrassment. Chortle at the sheeple!

That's what gets me, really, that these pranks are conducted out of nothing more than sheer contempt for random strangers and then spun however feebly in an attempt to claim some kind of sociological significance. But let's face it: There is no conceivable way you can claim that by getting two fast food employees to urinate on each other, you're conducting a social engineering experiment. Unless you're CIA.

I'm reminded of that rash of fast food prank calls in the 90s, where the caller would identify himself as a police officer and demand that a manager strip-search an employee suspected of stealing. I'd have to go into Wikipedia to check, but IIRC that shit came to a head with a particularly nasty episode at a Kentucky McDonald's in 2004. They tracked down a suspect, charged him with impersonating a police officer and some sex-related misdemeanors, but he was eventually acquitted. The calls stopped after he was arrested, though. Ugly world we live in.

The TSG article was really well-paced when it came to describing the stunts, starting small and working up in intensity. When I started reading I thought "Gee, getting someone to throw a TV out of a hotel room, that's lame but it doesn't sound bad enough for an expose like this" but by the end of it, I was writing a letter to Santa asking for extradition and some nice federal penitentary time for Dex and his pals, and also maybe give those TSG boys some nice ponies come December 25.

I guess the real lesson we learned here is don't fuck with investigative journalists who know their way around the Internet. And especially don't challenge them to find your personal information. Because they will, ~3DW4RD_B3LL4~, if that is your real name and I know it's not.
posted by Spatch at 8:10 AM on August 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


EPIC SMACKDOWN
posted by Pronoiac at 8:21 PM on August 5, 2009


that's quite the public shaming, right there. dear tsg: please continue to use this power for good.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:42 AM on August 6, 2009


Diboll Man Alleged to be Prankster Says It's Not Him.
"A Diboll man targeted by a nationally known Web site alleging he participated in a multistate phone prank site under investigation says he is the victim of mistaken identity."
posted by Floydd at 11:41 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


says he is the victim of mistaken identity

Awesome! And now it's in the local paper that he frequents a gay bar, too. I wonder if he's OK with that? I wonder if TSG's ok with that if they fingered the wrong guy? Hell, even if they fingered the right guy, is it OK for him to be outed in his local paper?
posted by Nelson at 11:51 AM on August 6, 2009


Awesome! And now it's in the local paper that he frequents a gay bar, too. I wonder if he's OK with that?

Unless I missed something, the local story doesn't mention that. It pretty much only includes things that he put on his MySpace page, descriptions of the PrankNET pranks he's accused of, the general descriptions of the TSG article naming him, and interviews with him and TSG.

I wonder if TSG's ok with that if they fingered the wrong guy? Hell, even if they fingered the right guy, is it OK for him to be outed in his local paper?

I know in the courts it's innocent until proven guilty and all that, but let's look at the evidence presented in the article:

Evidence for Guilty:

- Deleted MySpace page for someone named PrAnKsTeR04 PrankNET Pranker who went to his high school has the same picture as his Facebook page (through which the reporter contacted him).
- The same MySpace page literally says that he pranks people on PrankNET.
- TSG reporter says he talked to him on the same Skype account he used for pranking, and people who knew him were able to identify him from the recordings.
- He admits that he had a Skype account that he recently closed.
- He admits that he was at least a listener of PrankNET and is friends with other users on the site.

Evidence for Not Guilty:

- In a phone interview, he claimed that he never pranked anyone and "all he does is go to church and home."
- In the same interview, he claimed that the photos and voice records are not him.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:21 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ewwww.
More on moron Markle from TSG.
Another Pranknet Child Molester.
posted by Floydd at 7:24 AM on August 8, 2009


More on moron Markle from TSG. ... Which says "According to Texas Youth Commission records, copies of which you'll find below".

Aren't the criminal records of minors usually sealed? Maybe not in the case of a sexual assault?
posted by Nelson at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2009


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