Man gets 21 years in prison for armed robbery spree targeting 21 Trader Joe’s stores throughout SoCal

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This file photo captures the exterior of the original Trader Joe's grocery store in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

This file photo captures the exterior of the original Trader Joe’s grocery store in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

A Huntington Park man was sentenced Monday to 21 years in federal prison for committing or attempting to commit 21 armed robberies of Trader Joe’s grocery stores throughout Southern California.

Gregory Johnson, 44, was sentenced for the robberies that took place during a three-month crime spree in 2020, in which he used a semi-automatic handgun to terrorize store employees and customers, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

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.

He admitted to committing armed robberies between Aug. 28 to Dec. 4, 2020, of Trader Joe’s stores in Eagle Rock, Sherman Oaks, Chatsworth, Glendale, Pasadena, Monrovia, San Dimas, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, Cerritos, Brea, Santa Ana, Agoura Hills, Tustin and Irvine.

He also attempted to rob Trader Joe’s stores in Simi Valley and Corona, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

After Johnson robbed the stores in Rancho Palos Verdes and Brea, he returned weeks later to rob them again.

On Dec. 4, 2020, Johnson and his 20-year-old son, Gregory Eric Johnson of South Los Angeles, were arrested after a witness gave law enforcement a description of the getaway car and its license plate, according to court documents obtained by the Department of Justice.

After stopping the vehicle, law enforcement recovered Johnson’s gun and other items from the vehicle. 

“The violent, terroristic nature of [Johnson’s] criminal conduct cannot be overstated,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum obtained by the DOJ. “[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 said Johnson has a “serious and violent criminal history,” including a prior armed robbery conviction in 2000 for robbing a Trader Joe’s store that resulted in a 12-year sentence. 

Johnson was on probation in several other cases when he committed the Trader Joe’s armed robbery spree.

His son Gregory was sentenced in December 2021 to two years in federal prison for his role in his father’s crime spree. He pleaded guilty in March 2021 to a two-count information charging him with interference with commerce by robbery for robbing Trader Joe’s stores in Chatsworth and Chino Hills in December 2020. 

The matter was investigated by the FBI, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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