YouTube stars charged in fake bank robbery 'prank' that led to police response
"These were not pranks. These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed," said the DA
By Sean Emery
The Orange County Register
IRVINE, Calif. — Two 23-year old twins face criminal charges for a prank in which authorities say they staged a fake bank robbery in Irvine that resulted in a police response, including officers holding an unsuspecting Uber driver at gunpoint.
Alan and Alex Stokes, 23, of Irvine each were charged with a felony count of false imprisonment and a misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors allege that around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2019, the brothers – dressed in black, wearing ski masks and carrying duffel bags full of cash – pretended like they had just robbed a bank, while their videographer filmed them.
According to the DA’s office, the brothers ordered an Uber, but the driver – who was unaware of the alleged prank – refused to drive them anywhere. A bystander, believing the two men had robbed a bank and were trying to carjack the driver, called 911.
Irvine officers ordered the Uber driver out of the car at gunpoint, then released him after determining he hadn’t committed a crime. The officers let the Stokes brothers go with a warning, according to the DA’s office.
Prosecutors allege that four hours later the brothers carried out a similar prank on the UC Irvine campus, and officers once again responded to reports of a bank being robbed. The men left before officers arrived.
The “Stokes Twins” YouTube page has more than 4.8 million followers, and includes videos that routinely drew millions of views. Their TikTok account has 25.4 million followers. A video entitled “Bank Robbery Prank! (goes wrong),” posted on Oct. 20, 2019 and appearing to depict the alleged actions cited by the DA’s office was still available on YouTube on Wednesday afternoon, but was set to private by Thursday morning.
The video shows the brothers running around the college campus, asking bystanders for help finding, or robbing a bank. It depicts an Uber driver kicking them out of his car. It also shows one of the brothers talking to a group about what happened to the driver.
“There were like 10 cop cars that pulled out like guns on him,” one of the brothers says in the video. “Poor guy.”
The video also shows one of the twins talking to officers, telling them he “just didn’t expect this happening.”
“Think about what is going on nowadays,” one of the officers tells one of the twins in the video. “You’ve got to be smarter. You know better … What do you think people are going to do? You are lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn on you.”
The brothers could not be reached Wednesday for comment. A date for their arraignment has not been set.
“These were not pranks,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a written statement. “These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed. Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect the public and when someone calls 911 to report an active bank robbery they are going to respond to protect lives. Instead, what they found was some kind of twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet by unnecessarily putting members of the public and police officers in danger.”
If convicted, the brothers face up to four years in prison, according to the DA’s office.
©2020 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)