DOCUMENT: Internet, Crime

First Pranknet Arrest

Texas man, 24, cops to telephone hoax targeting Arby's

Shawn Powell

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First Pranknet Arrest

AUGUST 26--A Texas man exposed in a TSG report about a network of malicious prank telephone callers has been arrested in connection with a hoax directed last month at a fast food restaurant.

Shawn Powell, 24, is facing a criminal mischief rap for his role in a July 5 prank targeting an Arby's in his hometown of Baytown, Texas, according to this criminal complaint. As TSG first reported on August 4, Powell, a convicted sex offender, was a regular on Pranknet, an online chat group whose members have spent more than a year placing criminal prank phone calls that have caused significant damage to U.S. businesses and residents.

Powell, who uses the nickname "Slipknotpsycho," and another Pranknet vandal called the Baytown Arby's and convinced an employee to activate the eatery's fire suppression system. As a result, foam was discharged from overhead extinguishers, damaging the restaurant and causing its closure (an employee refused to follow Taylor's direction to break the firm's windows to help counteract the supposed toxicity of the foam).

During questioning by a Baytown Police Department sergeant, Powell, pictured in the mug shot at left, admitted his role in the Arby's prank and identified himself as "part of a large group who make prank calls via voice over internet connections to hotels and restaurants." Powell added that he "was new to the 'game' and this was the first restaurant that he had called."

Powell was accompanied on the Arby's call by Tyler Markle, a Pranknet regular known as "Prankster." In several July interviews, Powell told TSG that he used his Skype account to conference "Prankster" in on the Arby's call, and also identified his cohort as a fellow Texan. But when questioned by Baytown cops, Powell curiously claimed that his coconspirator "lives in western Canada."

Markle, who was also unmasked in the original TSG story, is the subject of at least two other criminal probes focusing on his Pranknet calls. Markle, a 19-year-old Diboll, Texas resident, was once convicted of raping a five-year-old girl and served about 30 months in custody.

In May 2002, Powell was sentenced to 13 months in prison following his guilty plea to a felony count of indecency with a minor (he copped to taking nude photos of an eight-year-old relative).

Powell is due in court tomorrow on the misdemeanor rap, for which he is free on $1000 bond. Since damage to the Arby's was pegged at $1384, Powell narrowly avoided a felony criminal mischief charge, which is reserved for incidents causing damage in excess of $1500, according to Baytown police. (4 pages)

Comments (1)

come on they could have come up with $116.01 more in cleaning charges, just for the hell of it...