E-mail this page Print this page Most E-mailed/Most printed Type sizeDiboll man alleged to be prankster says it's not himBy ASHLEY COOKThe Lufkin Daily NewsThursday, August 06, 2009A 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.TheSmokingGun.com (TSG) posted a story
Tuesday claiming to expose the people behind the screens at Pranknet.org, whose online members execute and brag about pranks like tricking hotel and restaurant employees into humiliating themselves
or causing thousands of dollars in damage to avoid fictional threats from gas leaks or fire suppression systems.(ENLARGE)Nationally known Web site TheSmokingGun.com posted the photo on the left,
identifying the man as 18-year-old Tyler Markle, of Diboll, in a story alleging he is involved in a series of damaging Internet phone pranks through the Ontario based site Pranknet.org.
That image and the Facebook profile photo of James Tyler Markle, 18, of Diboll, both appear on recovered pages of what is allegedly Markle's now closed MySpace site where he identifies himself as
'PrAnKsTeR04 PrankNET Pranker.' James Tyler Markle, 18, talked with The Lufkin Daily News Wednesday and denied it was his image, interview quotes and audio clips of the interview with New York City
TSG editor Bill Bastone posted on TSG's site with the story titled "Telephone Terrorist." He said it was another person named the Samoan Prankster who was responsible."That's not my picture," Markle
I haven't done anything wrong.
It's a different guy who is doing this stuff."Markle has not been charged with any crimes.
He is a "person of interest" in a Lufkin Police investigation into a recent phone prank incident at a McDonald's restaurant very similar to another prank with which he is alleged to have been
involved, according to Det.
Otis Almond of LPD's cyber crimes division.
Almond said he believed the McDonald's case ended in an employee losing his job.Almond said police had just learned of the story Tuesday night, and would be looking at the case to see if there is any
connection to Pranknet."We're going to look at it and see if there's anything we can do with it," Almond said.Skype, the free Internet phone company used to make the prank calls on Pranknet, was hard
to track because the phone company is outside the United States, he said.Markle said Wednesday he was "just a listener called Prankster," listening to Pranknet over Internet radio, not actually going
onto the site itself.The photo on TSG's story is identical to an image found among several photos on Markle's profile page for fans of the Kidd Kraddick radio show at kiddlive.ning.com, and on
recovered pages from his now-closed MySpace site.On the MySpace page Markle apparently identifies himself as a 21-year-old 2008 Diboll High School graduate named "PrAnKsTeR04 PrankNET Pranker." The
page contains the same profile picture posted on his Facebook page, through which the newspaper contacted him on Wednesday by linking to a family member's page."I am a pranker on PrankNET ...
come check us out," the MySpace page formerly active at myspace.com/xxx_neverbroughtdown_xxx states.Under one posted question on "Who I'd like to meet:" the answer is, "None really just one of the
stupid that i Prank call."A woman identifying herself as Markle's grandmother contacted the newspaper Wednesday, but declined to comment for the story.
Minutes later, in Markle's call to the newspaper, a woman could be heard appearing to coach him on what to say."I'm a good person.
I haven't done anything wrong.
I don't go anywhere.
All I do is go to church and home," Markle said.Markle identifies himself on his Facebook and MySpace pages as a member of the Wiccan religion.TSG's story alleges Markle is the user known as
"Prankster" behind dozens of hoaxes across the country, making him one of the "most prolific vandals."In the most graphic case, TSG claims Markle was responsible for tricking a hotel clerk in
Lexington, Ky., into drinking a guest's urine.The guest was tricked into providing a sample for a fake health scare, the clerk being told it was an apple cider taste test.
An audio clip of the prank is available on TSG's site.
That episode is followed by graphic and derisive language by other online users enjoying the prank at Pranknet.org, according to TSG.Det.
Shannon Garner with the Lexington Division of Police is investigating the case.
She could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.Markle said the New York editor was posting lies about him, and that he wanted the "truth to be out.""He's also posted fake stuff about other
people — some of my friends and stuff like that," Markle said of Bastone.Bastone in a call to The Lufkin Daily News on Wednesday evening said he staked his Web site's 12 1/2-year reputation on "the
fact that that kid is the one who places those calls."TSG alleges Markle teamed up with a 24-year-old user from Baytown — a man also identified as a sex offender convicted in a case involving an
8-year-old girl, according to the site and state police database records.On July 5 the two allegedly made a call using technical jargon to convince a Baytown Arby's employee to activate the
restaurant's fire suppression system, but failing to get the worker to break windows, trying to warn him of the purported toxic nature of the foam, the story stated.The prank cost an estimated $4,600
in damages and lost sales.
A request for comment from Baytown Police was not immediately returned Wednesday.Bastone said his people spent around six weeks monitoring the activities on Pranknet, including where he says Markle's
voice is recorded at a former user's place of employment allegedly harassing her after she dropped off the site.Bastone said he was able to trace Markle through numerous Web sites across the
Internet, linking him by photographs and names, including an alias.Markle on Wednesday said the trace was a mistake, accidentally linking him when he in fact has nothing to do with the prank
He said users on Pranknet would be able to defend him against the allegations, since he'd just listened to the site via Internet radio but hadn't participated in anything.Bastone claimed Wednesday
that he spoke with Markle last week, and that two people in Lufkin claiming to know Markle identified him by voice and photo as well.Bastone said he spoke with Markle for several minutes over a Skype
Internet phone number.
Markle said Wednesday he formerly had a Skype account but has since closed it.The TSG story names Markle's hometown and a description of his house and social activities in Lufkin.The story quotes a
phone interview with him and includes an audio clip of the interview in which he sounds flustered at the reporter's probing questions.
Markle maintains it is not his voice in the clip, and that TSG never interviewed him, but has called his house repeatedly, forcing his family to have to change their number.The subject in the TSG
interview describes himself as untouchable, a "ghost on the Internet," challenging TSG to find his real name and address, and bristling at the Internet reporter bothering him, when it's him who
bothers other people, he is heard to say in the audio clip.The TSG story also targeted two men in Ontario who are the alleged site founders and ringleaders, including a convicted drug supplier.The
members' online language is often graphic and includes homophobic and racial slurs, according to the online story.