On Oct 21, 2010, ESPN reporter Elizabeth Moreau ended up shattering her own hotel room’s window with a toilet seat after she got a call which convinced her that the hotel was on fire.
Moreau was in Gainesville, Florida covering a women’s volleyball match. She was staying in room 208 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Gainesville.
Early on the morning of Oct 21 (late night Oct 20) at around 00:20, she got a call from an unidentified male who told her the hotel was on fire and she had to lay towels down at the bottom of her front door to prevent smoke from entering the room.
The caller then told her to use the toilet lid cover to break the window. Moreau hit the window with the toilet lid, which shattered the window and the toilet lid also broke when it hit the ground outside.
After that, the caller told Moreau that she was a bad ex-wife and followed it up an obscenity. This is a prank that follows the Pranknet standard operating procedure.
Victims are tricked into panicking and then made to do all kinds of things, including setting off sprinklers and fire alarms, and destroying hotel rooms and lobbies. Some fastfood workers were even tricked into stripping outside their restaurants after they got calls informing them that their clothes were doused with a harmful chemical.
Last year, Pranknet, founded by Tariq Malik, targeted many hotels with the same prank calls. The whole thing went off the radar after Pranknet was exposed by TSG, but not before it caused millions of dollars in damage in hotels and restaurants all over the US.
Hilton Garden Inn hotels were an especially ripe target last year because they patch through calls without the caller having to know the name of the room’s occupant. In the case of Elizabeth Moreau, the caller simply told the front desk that his wife was in room 208, and the desk clerk transferred the call.
This also adds to the problems faced by ESPN reporters in hotels. Previously, Erin Andrews – another blonde ESPN sportscaster, was stalked by one Michael David Barrett who followed her to multiple hotels and filmed her nude inside her hotel room through the peephole.
After being caught, the stalker was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Erin Andrews has filed suit against Radisson and Marriott for letting the stalker know which room she was staying in and then giving him a room close to hers.
This new prank against Elizabeth Moreau doesn’t look like it was specifically targeted against her. But given all the publicity, if the caller is identified and the truth comes out, it could end up as another slanging match between an ESPN reporter and a hotel.
Photo from Elizabeth Moreau’s resume