The Smoking Gun Targets Two Houston-Area Internet "Pranksters"

The Smoking Gun website has an extensive, entertaining investigative expose on a group of webheads who pull off expensive pranks nationwide.

Posing as authority figures, they have phoned hotel rooms and fast-food restaurants and talked innocent people into doing such things as breaking windows (because of an alleged gas leak) or drinking someone else's piss (thinking it's a cider taste test).

You might think that's a bit of Jackass fun, but the group also regularly engages in racist, homophobic, anti-cop language.

The Smoking Gun's seven-week investigation showed the ringleader was an adult who lived with his mom in a small Canadian apartment. But it also showed two of the pranksters were from the Houston area.

Says the website:

Shawn Powell, known as "Slipknotpsycho," is a 24-year-old Texan on that state's sex offender registry. In May 2002, he was sentenced to 13 months in custody following his conviction on a felony charge of indecency with a minor (he admitted taking naked photos of an eight-year-old female relative).

The unemployed Powell, whose rap sheet also includes a 2003 pot possession conviction, is a relative Pranknet newcomer and, as a result, apparently only the subject of one police investigation.

On July 5, TSG has learned, Powell and a Pranknet veteran nicknamed "Prankster" targeted a pair of fast food restaurants. Of all the cities he could have chosen, Powell decided to cut his teeth in Baytown, Texas, where he happens to reside.

While "Prankster" took the lead, posing as "Jamie Taylor," a representative of the Baytown Fire Department, Powell "hosted" the calls via his Skype account.

That prank call, to an Arby's, resulted in $4,600 worth of damage adter a sprinklet system was set off.

The other:

"Prankster" is Tyler Markle, who turns 19 later this month.

He lives with his mother and stepfather in a mobile home on a rural road in Diboll, Texas (pop. 5407), about 115 miles north of Houston. He is a 2008 graduate of Diboll High School and, like Pranknet founder Malik, is an avid player of first-person shooter games (he is known in that world as "RancidOneShot 2" and "N3v3rQu1t").

On a recently deleted MySpace page, Markle (whose full name is James Tyler Markle) listed his body type as "6' 6" / Athletic," though that is an exaggeration, according to one source. He plays on a recreational softball team, dresses like a goth, and loves the "Twilight" series of books (his Twitter account, "3DW4RD_B3LL4," is an alphanumeric tribute to the vampire saga's main characters).

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, not to mention his repeated threats to violate men and women with a chair leg.

The whole saga is long, but entertaining -- TSG had to use some trickery of its own to get IDs on the members. They then staked out a couple of them at their homes, where the pranksters all remained hidden.

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