First published in the Jan. 8 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
A Huntington Park man was sentenced Monday to 21 years behind bars for carrying out a string of armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of Trader Joe’s markets throughout the Southland — two of which involved his son as the getaway driver.
Gregory Johnson, 44, pleaded guilty in May to one federal count each of interference with commerce by robbery and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Johnson admitted that during a three-month crime spree starting in August 2020, he committed armed robberies of Trader Joe’s grocery 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.
After robbing the markets in Rancho Palos Verdes and Brea, Johnson returned weeks later to rob them again. He also attempted to rob Trader Joe’s locations in Simi Valley and Corona.
Prosecutors wrote that Johnson used a gun to control and instill fear in store employees and customers, leaving lasting emotional trauma on the victims. The defendant’s “serious and violent criminal history” includes a prior armed robbery conviction in 2000 for robbing a Trader Joe’s store, resulting in a 12-year sentence, according to the sentencing memorandum.
He was on probation in several other cases when he committed the Trader Joe’s robbery spree.
Johnson and his 21-year-old son, Gregory E. Johnson, were arrested following the Chino Hills robbery on Dec. 4, 2020, after a witness gave authorities a description of their getaway vehicle and license plate.
The younger Johnson admitted driving the getaway car in the Chino Hills and Chatsworth robberies, and was sentenced last month in Los Angeles federal court to two years behind bars.
Prosecutors sometimes opt to file such cases in federal court rather than state court, which can result in longer prison sentences.
— City News Service