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Press Release

San Diego Man Pleads Guilty to Three Robberies

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California
For Further Information, Contact:
Assistant U. S. Attorney Matthew Brehm (619) 546-8983

SAN DIEGO – Ryan W. Nelson of San Diego pleaded guilty in federal court today to three robberies, including two bank robberies and the armed robbery of a shoe store.

Nelson entered his guilty pleas to the three counts before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg. Nelson admitted that on July 29, 2019, at approximately 8:45 a.m., he entered the Shoe Palace, located within the Plaza Bonita Mall in National City, dressed as a construction worker with a safety vest, safety glasses, and a hard hat.

According to Nelson’s plea agreement, he told a Shoe Palace clerk that he was working on construction in the store above Shoe Palace and needed to inspect an electrical breaker panel in a room in the back of the store. When Nelson returned to the front of the store, he approached a clerk, who was pregnant at the time, and pointed a handgun at her. He demanded cash from the cash register, stating, "Give me all the money."

The clerk gave Nelson access to the cash register, and he took approximately $600 from the register and a nearby safe. After he took the cash, Nelson told the clerk, "Don’t call anyone or I will be back in five minutes!" He then fled the store, walked outside the mall, removed his construction worker disguise, retrieved a backpack hidden outside the mall, and changed his shirt.

Nelson also admitted that on August 15, 2019, at approximately 10:10 a.m., he entered the Vons Supermarket at 6155 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, and approached the teller window of the U.S. Bank branch located inside. Nelson pretended to talk on his cell phone but in fact gave the teller step-by-step verbal commands, demanding the teller to give him money by stating something similar to, "Grab a bag. Start with the hundreds. Put all the money in the bag and give it to me, or I’m gonna shoot." The teller complied with demands and provided Nelson with money from his teller drawer, totaling approximately $1,372. Prior to fleeing, Nelson told the victim teller, "Wait seven minutes, I’ve got someone in the store." He then turned and exited the bank area, leaving out the east exit of the Vons Supermarket.

Nelson at US Bank
Nelson at the U.S. Bank teller window at Vons Supermarket on August 15, 2019


Nelson further admitted on August 23, 2019, at approximately 11:56 a.m., he entered the Vons Supermarket at 8011 University Avenue, La Mesa, California, and approached the teller window of the Wells Fargo branch located inside. Nelson pretended to talk on his cell phone but in fact demanded money from the three victim tellers by giving step-by-step verbal commands, stating something similar to, "Start with your 100s and put them in a bag, or I’ll start shooting." The tellers complied with the demands and provided Nelson with a bag containing money from each of the teller’s drawers totaling approximately $9,600. He then left out of the Vons Supermarket’s main entrance.

Nelson at Wells Fargo
Nelson at the Wells Fargo teller window at Vons Supermarket on August 23, 2019


Nelson also admitted that on August 29, 2019, FBI agents executed a federal search warrant at his residence and found a black bomber jacket, dark colored pants with white stripes down the sides, a navy blue-colored backpack, and a large black wristwatch, which were all items he was recorded wearing by surveillance cameras during, or just after, one of the bank robberies. FBI agents found a loaded .380 Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun in a drawer in Nelson’s room, which matched the description of the firearm he brandished during the Shoe Palace robbery. Agents also found $2,030 in cash on Nelson’s person, during his arrest.

"These robberies were meticulously planned for maximum impact on the victims and maximum payout," said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. "The threat of violence is a terrifying experience that these victims will never forget." Brewer praised prosecutor Matthew Brehm, FBI agents and officials with the San Diego, National City and La Mesa police departments for their excellent work on this case.

"The San Diego FBI Violent Crimes Task Force takes their work very seriously, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. "Robberies committed with the threat of violence and while using a firearm is a top priority for our agents and task force officers. The bank tellers, store workers, and San Diego citizens have the right to be free from violent criminal acts that threaten the safety and security of our community."

Nelson will be sentenced on January 11, 2021 at 9 a.m. by District Court Judge Cynthia Bashant.

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts of the Violent Crime and Human Trafficking (VCHT) Section. Formed in 2019 by U.S. Attorney Brewer, the VCHT is tasked with leading collaborations between federal and local law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of cases involving violent crimes, firearms and gang cases; sex trafficking and child exploitation; civil rights, and labor trafficking. The VCHT Section oversees the Southern District of California Coordinators for Project Safe Neighborhoods, Human Trafficking, and Project Safe Childhood.

DEFENDANT Case Number 19cr3563-BAS

Ryan W. Nelson Age: 38 San Diego, California


Bank Robbery – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2113(a)

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine

Hobbs Act Robbery – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1951

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine


Federal Bureau of Investigations

San Diego Police Department

National City Police Department

La Mesa Police Department

Updated October 8, 2020

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: CAS20-1008-Nelson