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Press Release

Two Men Sentenced To More Than Twenty Years Each For The Armed Robbery Of Multiple Bay Area Businesses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

OAKLAND– Shawan I. Spragans and Merl J. Simpson were sentenced in federal court in Oakland today to serve prison sentences of 23 years and 20 years, respectively, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The defendants each were also ordered to pay $2,014 in restitution stemming from an armed robbery spree committed in the Bay Area between approximately February 1, 2016, and April 21, 2016.  The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, U.S. District Judge, following guilty pleas entered by the defendants on January 13, 2017, to conspiracy, attempt, and multiple robberies affecting interstate commerce (Hobbs Act robbery).  The defendants each also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm in furtherance of Hobbs Act robbery, and being a felon in possession of firearms. 

According to their plea agreements, on March 3, 3016, Spragans, 41, of Oakland, and a co-conspirator entered a Berkeley pharmacy wearing masks, gloves, and dark-colored clothing, pointed a firearm at employees and customers, and stole cash from a register.  Simpson, 47, of Antioch, drove the getaway vehicle.  On March 20, 2016, Spragans and a co-conspirator entered a barbecue restaurant in Berkeley wearing masks and dark clothing, and forced three employees at gunpoint to stand still while Spragans and his co-conspirator robbed the restaurant.  They also robbed the employees of personal cash.  They fled the restaurant with the stolen cash, and Simpson drove them away in the getaway vehicle.  On April 7, 2016, Spragans and a co-conspirator entered an Ethiopian restaurant in Berkeley wearing masks and dark clothing.  They each pointed revolvers at two female employees and robbed them of the restaurant’s cash.  Spragans entered the kitchen and encountered another employee, who struggled with Spragans as the employee attempted to escape.  During that physical encounter, Spragans fired a bullet at the employee from his revolver.  The bullet missed the employee.  Spragans and his co-conspirator then fled the restaurant with the stolen cash, and Simpson drove them away in the getaway vehicle.  Simpson also admitted that, earlier on April 7, 2016, prior to robbing the Ethiopian restaurant, he and a co-conspirator robbed a pizzeria in San Francisco at gunpoint.  Finally, on April 21, 2016, Spragans and Simpson attempted to rob a bar in San Francisco at gunpoint.  However, police already were in place conducting surveillance on the location and arrested the defendants as they attempted to flee the area.  The police also arrested a co-conspirator, who was waiting in the getaway car. 

Spragans and Simpson were indicted by a federal grand jury on June 30, 2016.  They have remained in federal custody since they made their initial appearances in federal court on July 7, 2016.  They pleaded guilty on January 13, 2017. 

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Gonzalez Rogers also sentenced each defendant to a five-year term of supervised release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Gullotta is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Michelle Alter Eck and Trina Khadoo.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the Berkeley, San Francisco, San Leandro, and Albany Police Departments.   

Updated June 22, 2017

Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime