YouTube celebrities the Stokes Twins could face up to four years in state prison for their role in two fake bank robberies.
Alan and Alex Stokes are popular Internet pranksters who have over 4.8 million followers. The charges against them were announced Wednesday but the alleged incidents took place in October 2019.
The 23-year-old brothers are accused of pretending to rob a bank upon ordering an Uber. The Uber driver refused to pick them up, and the pair’s videographer was filming the incident. A witness to the exchange believed the brothers had robbed a bank and were attempting to carjack the driver, according to the district attorney’s office.
When police arrived, they ordered the driver out at gunpoint, but released him after determining he was not involved. The district attorney’s office said police issued a warning to the brothers and let them go.
Hours later, police received emergency calls about the pair allegedly repeating the behavior on the University of California, Irvine, campus.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer called the fake robberies a “twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet” that endangered the public and police.
“These were not pranks,” Spitzer said. “These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed.”
The brothers were each charged Wednesday with one felony count of false imprisonment effected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, as well as one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency in connection with the October 2019 pranks, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The second charge is commonly referred to as “swatting,” or calling the police to falsely report a crime or emergency and lure them to someone else’s location. In previous instances, swatting has been fatal for those unwittingly involved.
Footage of the fake robberies doesn’t appear on their shared channel. Their most recent video, published Tuesday, sees the brothers and their friends attempt to eat 100,000 calories in 24 hours.
Law enforcement caught up with another one of YouTube’s most prominent pranksters this week, too: On Wednesday, FBI agents searched the home of Jake Paul “in connection with an ongoing investigation.” The FBI declined to comment on the nature of the investigation.
Also this week, Arizona police dropped charges against Paul for criminal trespass and unlawful assembly. In June, he’d been filmed at an Arizona mall as it was being looted, police said, though Paul denied he’d engaged in looting or vandalism.