'Prank' ring linked to hoax at hotel

eulber@herald-leader.comAugust 7, 2009 

Lexington police are investigating a local incident that might be connected to an international prank-calling ring.

Police say the victim, an employee at the Homewood Suites hotel on Ruccio Way, off Reynolds Road, was "intentionally exposed to an unknown substance by an unknown person without her knowledge" on July 20.

The report calls the incident first-degree wanton endangerment, which is considered a Class D felony in Kentucky.

Detective Shannon Garner declined to confirm the validity of an article on The Smoking Gun's Web site that broke the story but referred the Herald-Leader to audio of the phone call in question, which is posted next to the online article.

According to the article, the prank caller is nicknamed "Prankster" and is a part of an international prank-calling ring called Pranknet, whose members have spent the last year engaging in acts of vandalism, threats, harassment, impersonation and hacking.

The Smoking Gun says the members of Pranknet, whose founder lives in Windsor, Ontario, congregate in an Internet chat room and broadcast their prank calls live on the Web.

According to the article, Prankster called the front desk of the Homewood Suites, asked to be connected to room 206 and told the male guest who answered the phone that the room's previous guest had tested positive for hepatitis C.

It was possible that the guest could have contracted the disease from staying in the same room, Prankster said.

The article goes on to say that Prankster told the guest there was a doctor present and that the guest needed to bring a urine sample down to the front desk to be tested.

The audio recording that Garner referred to begins with Prankster on the phone with the female employee at the front desk, whom he conned into drinking the urine sample by saying he was a representative from an apple cider company, asking her to try a new brand of cider.

As the employee took a sip of the urine sample, Prankster and other callers can be heard laughing and taunting her.

A male's voice can be heard on the line saying: "I want you to understand that you just drank that man's urine."

Homewood Suites personnel declined to comment on the incident other than in the following statement:

"The safety of our guests and staff is of the utmost importance and is always a focal point of our operations in order to continue providing customers with a great experience.

"An incident did occur at this property on July 20 involving a prankster, a guest and an employee of this hotel. We immediately notified the local authorities, who are currently investigating the incident as a first-degree felony. As a health precaution, the employee sought medical attention and is completing a course of antibiotics.

"Pranks such as this are becoming more prevalent throughout the hospitality industry, and we are taking additional measures to prevent these types of incidents from happening again."

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