A pair of twin brothers with a popular YouTube channel are accused of staging fake bank robberies in Irvine, causing an innocent Uber driver to be held at gunpoint by police, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Irvine residents Alan and Alex Stokes, both 23, face one felony count each of false imprisonment and a misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, also known as swatting, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Their videos often feature pranks on unsuspecting victims, officials said. The twin’s YouTube channel has some 4.8 million subscribers.
DA Todd Spitzer accused the pair of putting the public and police officers in danger in a “twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet.”
The brothers allegedly made two attempts to film a bogus bank robbery on Oct. 15, 2019.
The pair was walking around dressed in all black, wearing ski masks and carrying duffle bags stuffed with cash, pretending they’d robbed a bank, as their videographer filmed, investigators said.
When they called an Uber around 2:30 p.m., the driver refused to pick them up because he was unaware of the ruse. A bystander who saw the events unfolding thought the Stokes brothers were trying to carjack the driver, authorities said.
Irvine police responded and ordered the driver out of his car at gunpoint, but he was released after the officers determined he wasn’t involved. Police did issue a warning to the Stokes brothers about their conduct, but they were also let go, according to the DA’s office.
Four hours later, the brothers executed the same hoax on the campus of UC Irvine, and police fielded emergency calls regarding a bank robbery, prosecutors said.
On Oct. 20, the pair uploaded a video to their YouTube channel titled “BANK ROBBER PRANK! (gone wrong).” They’re seen approaching people and asking them suspicious questions or showing them wads of cash, prompting confrontations with police.
“These were not pranks,” Spitzer said in a statement. “These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed.”
The YouTube video was changed from public to private Wednesday afternoon.
The Stokes brothers each face up to four years in state prison if convicted as charged.
Authorities did not say whether the brothers have been taken into custody. They did not appear in Orange County booking records as of Wednesday afternoon.