LOS ANGELES – A Huntington Park man was sentenced this morning to 252 months in federal prison for committing 21 armed robberies and attempted armed robberies of Trader Joe’s grocery stores throughout Southern California during a three-month crime spree.
Gregory Johnson, 44, was sentenced by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips for the robberies in which Johnson used a semi-automatic handgun to terrorize store employees and customers.
Johnson pleaded guilty in May 2021 to one count of interference with commerce by robbery (Hobbs Act) and one count of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Johnson admitted he committed armed robberies of Trader Joe’s grocery stories between August 28 and December 4, 2020 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. After Johnson robbed the stores in Rancho Palos Verdes and Brea, he returned weeks later to rob them again.
On December 4, 2020, Johnson and his son, Gregory Eric Johnson, 20, of South Los Angeles, were arrested after a witness gave law enforcement a description of the Johnsons’ getaway car and its license plate, according to court documents. 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. “[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 that resulted in a 12-year sentence. Johnson was on probation in several other cases when he committed Trader Joe’s armed robbery spree.
Gregory Eric Johnson 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 FBI; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey M. Chemerinsky and Joseph D. Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.