SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Twin brothers Alan and Alex Stokes have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment and reporting false emergencies in connection with a pair of fake bank robberies in Irvine, the Orange County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, the Stokes brothers dressed in all black, wore ski masks and carried duffle bags full of cash as they pretended to run away after robbing a bank while their videographer filmed it on the afternoon of Oct. 15. The pair then ordered an Uber.
The driver of that Uber, unaware of the prank, refused to drive them prompting a bystander to call police under the belief that the men had just robbed a bank and were attempting to carjack the Uber driver.
Irvine police arrived on the scene and ordered the Uber driver out at gunpoint. He was ultimately released after police determined he was not involved and the Stokes brothers were released with a warning about the dangerousness of their behavior, the D.A.'s office said.
According to prosecutors, the men performed the same kind of prank on the campus of the University of California, Irvine just four hours later.
"These crimes could have easily resulted in someone being seriously hurt or killed," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a 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 continued.
According to the D.A.'s Office, the 23-year-old brothers were each charged with one felony count of false imprisonment effected by violence, menace, fraud or deceit and two misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting an emergency in connection with a pair of Oct. 15, 2019 pranks. If convicted as charged, they would have each faced a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
The D.A.'s office said the guilty pleas were in exchange for a judge reducing the felony false imprisonment charge to a misdemeanor, a move prosecutors objected.
The bothers were each sentenced to 160 hours of community service, one year of formal probation and ordered to pay restitution. The judge also ordered the pair to stay away from the University of California, Irvine and to stop making videos that mimic criminal behavior.
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