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A male defendant was sentenced on Jan. 3 to 21 years in federal prison for committing 21 armed robberies and attempted armed robberies at Trader Joe’s grocery stores throughout Southern California during a three-month crime spree in 2020.
Gregory Johnson, 44, was sentenced by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips. Johnson used a semi-automatic handgun during the robberies and terrorized store employees and customers.
Johnson pleaded guilty in May 2021 to one count of interference with commerce by robbery, and one count of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Johnson admitted he committed armed robberies at Trader Joe’s grocery stories between Aug. 28 and Dec. 4, 2020. In two instances, he robbed the same stores twice, months apart. The robberies occurred throughout the Los Angeles area.
On Dec. 4, 2020, Johnson and his son, Gregory Eric Johnson, 20, of South Los Angeles, were arrested after a witness provided law enforcement with a description of the suspects’ getaway car and its license plate number, according to court documents. After stopping the vehicle, law enforcement officials recovered a gun and other items tied to the crimes from the vehicle.
“The violent, terroristic nature of [Johnson’s] criminal conduct cannot be overstated,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “[Johnson] repeatedly brandished and used a firearm to control and instill fear in innocent civilians. These crimes terrorized the businesses’ employees and customers. These crimes have a lasting impact of emotional trauma on the victims.”
Prosecutors further noted defendant’s “serious and violent criminal history,” including a prior armed robbery conviction in 2000 for robbing a Trader Joe’s store. Johnson was sentenced to 12 years in prison for that robbery. He was on probation in several other cases when he committed the armed robbery spree in 2020.
Gregory Eric Johnson was sentenced in December to two years in federal prison for his role in the crime spree. He pleaded guilty in March 2021 to two-counts of interference with commerce by robbery.
The FBI, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey M. Chemerinsky and Joseph D. Axelrad, of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
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