The 23-year-old brothers pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and two counts of falsely reporting an emergency and were ordered to complete 160 hours of community service, serve one year of formal probation and pay an unspecified amount of restitution, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors opposed the court offer, which included a judge reducing the false imprisonment charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. The brothers also agreed to stay away from UC Irvine – where one of the pranks was carried out – and to “stop making videos that mimic criminal behavior,” according to the DA’s office.
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 robbed a bank in Irvine while a videographer filmed them.
The brothers ordered an Uber, according to prosecutors, but the driver – who was not part of the prank – refused to drive them anywhere. A bystander who believed a bank robbery and attempted carjacking was taking place called 911.
Officers ordered the Uber driver out of his vehicle at gunpoint, letting him go after determining he hadn’t committed a crime. The officers let the Stokes brothers go with a warning.
Four hours later, the brothers carried out a similar prank on the UC Irvine campus, leaving before officers responding to another report of a bank robbery arrived.
A video, once posted but since removed from the Stokes brothers YouTube page entitled “Bank Robbery Prank! (goes wrong),” showed the brothers apparently running around the college campus, asking bystanders for help finding or robbing a bank. It also depicted the Uber driver kicking them out of his car and an officer telling one of the twins “You’ve got to be smarter, you know better.”
An attorney representing the brothers previously contended that no crime had occurred, and said the public nature of the allegations had complicated the brothers’ ability to make a living. The “StokesTwins” YouTube page has more than 6 million subscribers, while their TikTok account has nearly 30 million followers.
“These crimes could have easily resulted in someone being seriously hurt or killed,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a written statement. “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…
“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,” Spitzer added.
Had the brothers been convicted of the initial criminal charges, they would have faced up to five years in jail.