Nothing like coming back from Thanksgiving break to report a $400 million Google acquisition and later find out that the original press release was a hoax.

That’s what happened Monday morning to several news outlets that relayed a PRweb press release reporting Google’s apparent $400 million acquisition of wireless broadband provider ICOA.

But shortly after the story made its rounds around the internet, Google employees told AllThingsD that the reports were fake, and indeed a few minutes later ICOA CFO Erwin Vahlsing sent a statement simply saying, “It is false.”

The AllThingsD write-up notes how TechCrunch “fell for the press release,” and later posted an updated version with comment from the ICOA CEO, who denied the report. AllThingsD co-executive editor Kara Swisher also took the moment to call out her competitor for poor journalism.

Here’s a couple Tweets from Alexia Tsotsis, co-editor at TechCrunch.

And from Eric Eldon, the other TechCrunch co-editor.

So there you have it. Everyone from TechCrunch to the AP got punk’d. Even investors were fooled, as made apparent by the 400-percent increase in ICOA’s penny stock.

Who was responsible? Arik Hesseldahl from AllThingsD explores that question, noting the possible consequences (jail time) for whoever crafted the faux report.

Looking back on it, it does seem odd that an acquisition this big would be first reported on a PR news wire via a two-paragraph statement with grammatical errors and no comment from Google. But hindsight is 20/20. With the pressure of “scooping” a story and being the first to report on big news, sometimes reporters can forget to take a step back before hitting that publish button.

UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.: Here’s PRWeb’s statement on the fraudulent press release. 

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