The journalist, Elizabeth Moreau, a college sports reporter for ESPN’s college sports network ESPN U, was told that there was a gas leak in the hotel and she had to put a wet towel by the floor of her front door. Upon instruction by the hoaxer, she then threw the toilet tank lid out of the window to break the window and unplugged her electrical appliances.
Moreau was hoaxed by Pranknet’s Tariq Malik himself, who used the name “Jeff Anderson” to pretend to be her hotel’s manager on Oct. 21, according to The Smoking Gun. Moreau was staying at the Hilton Garden Inn in Gainesville, Fla.
Audio of the hoax phone call contains cursing and a racial slur. The audio lasts about eight and a half minutes and is available on the Pranknet YouTube account. So far, the YouTube clip of the Moreau prank has had more than 5,000 views.
Malik (in the role of the faux hotel manager) even conferenced the call with Moreau with “Scott,” reportedly a man at the front desk. Malik told “Scott” that he and Moreau were married and in a fight and that she broke the window.
According to the police report Fox News reported, “She then went to the window and used it to break out the window. The window was broken and the toilet lid broke upon falling to the ground outside.”
The Smoking Gun reported on Tariq Malik and Pranknet here, noting that the group’s pranks have led to “millions of dollars in damages.”
UPDATE: 11/01/2010 10:40 AM EST: iMediaEthics has left messages on the answering machines of the Gainesville police department’s public affairs spokesperson and the Hilton Garden Inn, Gainesville’s assistant manager, asking if charges will be brought against Pranknet. We have also asked ESPN the same question via e-mail. We will update with any responses. We were unable to find an e-mail address for anyone at Pranknet.
UPDATE: 11/01/2010 2:38 PM EST: The Hilton Garden Inn’s assistant general manager, Tricia Dombrowski, called iMediaEthics and told us that she “cannot comment” on the incident, but that she has forwarded our request to the corporate office.
The Gainesville Police Dept. public affairs corporal Tscharna Senn also returned StinkyJournalism’s call and told us that “our detecticves are looking into possible charges right now. It has been forwarded to our detectives division.”