Four American backpackers are facing 40 years' hard labour in a Hungarian jail after being taken in by an online spoof story.
The identities of the two men and two women, both believed to be in their early 20s, have not yet been released by authorities in Budapest but it has been confirmed that all were attempting to buy large quantities of marijuana.
Sefton Delmer, from the US Embassy in the Hungarian capital, confirmed that the backpackers were all from California and had flown to the former Eastern bloc country in the belief that marijuana had been legalized following a bumper crop yield on the Great Plain.
They had all read, and believed, a story that appeared on the top satire site, thespoof.com, which claimed the drug was widely available and selling for $20 a kilo click here.
"A little research on their part would have revealed that Hungary takes a very hard line on drug misuse," said Mr Delmer. "Apparently this Spoof story was widely circulated and just proves how dangerous misinformation can be."
The unfortunate Americans checked in to the Radio Inn and immediately travelled by underground into the city centre.
They entered a number of bars and pestered bewildered Magyars in their search for the drug. Difficulties in the language led to the visitors attempting to mime their request by displaying items from their smoking kit.
Alarmed locals summoned the police and the four were duly arrested.
A subsequent search revealed that the four, between them, were armed with 16 pipes, 12 small hookahs, eight bongs, six chillums and 240 packets of king size rolling papers. A rucksack was also found at the Radio Inn containing a four-foot glass narghile (hubbly-bubbly) of Tunisian origin.
A number of Grateful Dead CDs was also recovered, including 25 copies of Workingman's Dead and, oddly, 276 copies of American Beauty.
Mr Delmer said the backpackers, after three days in jail, were now in a state of shock. Being ‘straight' for the first time since George W. Bush was re-elected President, they all realised the error of their ways and were most apologetic; all were totally unaware of where they were.
Hungary has very strict laws on soft drugs and attempting to ‘score' carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.
It is believed the Hungarian authorities may take a lenient view on the unfortunate escapade in return for the writer of the original Spoof article being extradited to face charges of bringing Magyar culture into disrepute.