Crime

Texas teenager a suspect in Lexington hotel prank

A man at the center of a prank-call investigation in Lexington was arrested Tuesday in Texas on charges of terrorizing and criminal damage to property.

James Tyler Markle, 19, of Diboll, Texas, is accused of calling fast-food restaurants in Texas and Louisiana while he posed as a member of corporate management to fool employees into destroying restaurant property, according to a news release from the Jefferson Parish, La., sheriff's office. Police say he confessed to the phone calls.

Lexington police are trying to determine whether Markle is tied to a prank-calling incident at the Homewood Suites hotel on Ruccio Way, Lexington police Lt. Doug Pape said.

The lieutenant said no charges have been filed against Markle in Lexington.

Police say an employee at Homewood Suites was "intentionally exposed to an unknown substance by an unknown person without her knowledge" on July 20, according to a police report. The document calls the incident first-degree wanton endangerment, a Class D felony.

Markle is allegedly connected to an international prank-calling ring called Pranknet, whose members have spent the last year engaging in acts of vandalism, threats, harassment, impersonation and hacking, according to The Smoking Gun, an online media outlet that first reported the operation.

The Web site says the members of Pranknet congregate in an Internet chat room and broadcast their prank calls live on the Web.

According to a Smoking Gun article published Aug. 4, a Pranknet user who used the screen name Prankster called the front desk of 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 states 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.

An audio recording of the incident on The Smoking Gun's Web site 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."

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