SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) — Two California men who tried to film a fake bank robbery with an unsuspecting Uber driver who was later held at gunpoint by police pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges stemming from the prank.
Alan and Alex Stokes — known online as the Stokes Twins — and have attracted tens of millions of social media followers by staging numerous pranks and posting them on video-sharing platforms YouTube and TikTok.
The brothers’ back-to-back fake bank robberies in Irvine, California, on Oct. 15, 2019, didn’t go as planned.
Wearing black clothing, ski masks and with bags full of fake cash in hand, the 23-year-old twins ordered an Uber. When the driver arrived, they acted as though they had just robbed a bank.
From a distance, an associate filmed them getting into the Uber, according to prosecutors.
The driver refused to accept them as passengers and an onlooker who witnessed the exchange thought it was a carjacking and called police.
Responding police officers ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint before confirming the driver was not involved.
The twins got off with a warning. Four hours later, they attempted the prank again on the University of California, Irvine, campus, according to prosecutors’ charging document.
In August 2020, prosecutors charged the Stokes brothers with one felony count each of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts each related to reporting a false emergency. The charges carried a maximum five years in state prison if convicted.
But a judge agreed to reduce the felony charges to a misdemeanor in exchange for the brothers’ guilty pleas. The lead prosecutor in the case objected to charges being reduced, Orange County DA Todd Spitzer's office said.
On Wednesday, the Stokes brothers pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of false imprisonment and reporting false emergencies.
A judge sentenced the brothers to 160 hours of community service, one year of probation, and ordered the men to pay restitution.
The judge also barred the men from being near or on the UC Irvine campus and ordered them to stop making videos that mimic criminal behavior.
In a statement, Spitzer said the Stokes’ actions could have led to someone being seriously hurt or killed.
“An active bank robbery is not a casual police response and these police officers were literally risking their lives to help people they believed were in danger,” Spitzer said. “It is irresponsible and reckless that these two individuals cared more about increasing their number of followers on the internet than the safety of those police officers or the safety of the innocent Uber driver who was ordered out of his car at gunpoint.”
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