Social media influencers who are famous among young viewers are now under scrutiny for their recent legal troubles. The FBI raided YouTuber Jake Paul‘s home in connection to his involvement with looting at an Arizona mall during the George Floyd protests earlier this year.
Brothers Alan and Alex Stokes, also popular YouTubers, are now facing felony charges over a prank video they filmed last year. The brothers, who go by the Stokes Twins, have nearly five million subscribers on their shared channel. The 23-year-olds typically organize pranks or participate in viral social media challenges. But, as with Paul (pictured above), sometimes you can take internet fame too far.
Pranks Gone Wrong
The Stokes Twins’ pranks were part of a video staging a fake bank robbery. The video, filmed in Irvine, California, has since been deleted (A reupload of the deleted footage is below). In it, the two are dressed in all black, wear ski masks, and carry duffle bags full of cash to trick people into believing they had robbed a bank. When the brothers attempted to get into an Uber, the driver who was unaware of the prank refused to take them.
A bystander thought the twins were carjacking the driver and called authorities. Police arrived and ordered the driver out at gunpoint, but determined he was uninvolved. At the time, police let the YouTubers go with only a warning. However, hours later, the pair attempted the same prank at a nearby college campus.
“These were not pranks,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed. Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect the public and when someone calls 911 to report an active bank robbery they are going to respond to protect lives. Instead, what they found was some kind of twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet by unnecessarily putting members of the public and police officers in danger.”
If convicted, the brothers face up to four years in state prison.
But they aren’t the only 23-year-old social media influencers in legal trouble.
SWAT Raids Paul’s Home
In Calabasas, California, a SWAT team raided Paul’s home as part of an ongoing FBI investigation that began back in May when Paul allegedly took part in a looting spree at the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall in Arizona. Authorities were alerted to Paul’s involvement after he shared footage of his time at the mall online.
Paul denies the allegations, claiming he was only filming events in light of George Floyd protests. However, he was charged with two misdemeanors. Those charges have been dropped so that the federal investigation can proceed, VICE reports.
Buzzfeed News reports that “the FBI executed federal search warrants in California and Las Vegas, Nevada in connection with this investigation.” At the time, an FBI spokesperson confirmed to Buzzfeed News that no arrests were planned and declined to comment further.
ABC7 posted aerial shots of the raid, which showed authorities taking multiple firearms from Paul’s property. Paul’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld, told TMZ, “We understand that a search warrant was executed at Jake’s Calabasas home this morning while Jake was out-of-state. We are still gathering information and will cooperate with the investigation.”
The footage from the Stokes Twins’ deleted prank video can be seen below: