A co-founder and cameraman for Trollstation, the controversial south London-based prank video collective, has been jailed for nine months for staging a bomb hoax for a video prank.
Danh Van Le, aka Digidan, left a ticking clock in a suitcase in public locations in Lambeth and Southwark.
Le then filmed a 15-year-old accomplice as he approached people and revealed the clock inside the suitcase, before dropping it and running away. A concerned member of the public phoned the police, who arrested and later charged Le with staging a bomb hoax.
The prank was filmed in September last year and was meant as a tribute to Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old American schoolboy who was arrested after making a clock that was mistaken for a bomb.
At the same hearing, at Inner London crown court, Le was also sentenced for using threatening, insulting, or abusive language while filming two separate prank videos at the Tate and National Portrait galleries in July last year in which Trollstation members staged mock heists. He was given an extra 12 weeks in jail for this after pleading guilty to all charges.
The boy featured in the suitcase video, who is now 16 but cannot be named, was handed a 12-month youth referral order on 12 February for his part in the hoax.
Trollstation, who have attracted almost 700,000 subscribers to their YouTube account, have built a reputation for staging outrageous stunts and pranks and filming unknowing bystanders' reactions. In February, police warned the group that they risk being shot by armed officers if they continued with their more ambitious and risky pranks and social experiments.
The group's CEO, Light, real name Endrit Ferizoli, told BuzzFeed News that Le's sentence was "unfair".
"People get off on violent things, on all kinds of things, and he had no bad history [with the police].
"They had Jackie Chan blowing up a bus on a bridge and there were no legal ramifications for that. They say that they wrote to residents [in advance of the filming] but I know for a fact that they couldn't write to every tourist in the area or someone that happened to be the area.
"That's the difference when a big company does it and when a small independent company does it."
The group, founded in late 2013, claims that it has always informed police in advance of its public pranks by phoning the 101 non-emergency line, but Metropolitan Police Federation chair Ken Marsh told BuzzFeed News in February that this defence was "utter rubbish".
Trollstation announced that Le was no longer a member of the group in the hope that this would help his criminal case, but Light said Le is likely to come back to making Trollstation videos on his release.
Meanwhile, Trollstation keep on publishing its prank videos, such as this from 13 March in which two people act out a mock drug deal in the middle of Oxford Circus.
Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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