San Francisco

Two Men Slapped With Long Jail Sentences for Spree of Bay Area Armed Robberies

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Two men have been sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms for committing armed robberies of multiple Bay Area businesses last year, authorities said.

U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Thursday sentenced Shawan Spragans, 41, of Oakland to 23 years and Merl Simpson, 47, of Antioch to 20 years for their crimes, according to U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John Bennett.

Gonzalez Rogers also ordered Spragans and Simpson to pay $2,014 in restitution for their armed robbery spree between Feb. 1, 2016, and April 21, 2016.

Spragans and Simpson pleaded guilty on Jan. 13 to conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery and multiple robberies affecting interstate commerce.

The two men also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm in furtherance of a robbery and being felons in possession of firearms, prosecutors said.

According to their plea agreements, Spragans and a co-conspirator entered a Walgreens pharmacy in Berkeley on March 3, 2016, wearing masks, gloves and dark-colored clothing, pointed a firearm at employees and customers and stole cash from a register.

Federal prosecutors said Simpson drove the getaway vehicle.

On March 20, 2016, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, 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, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. They fled the restaurant with the stolen cash and Simpson drove them away in the getaway vehicle.

Prosecutors said that on April 7, 2016, Spragans and a co-conspirator entered an Ethiopian restaurant in Berkeley wearing masks and dark clothing, pointed revolvers at two female employees and robbed them of the restaurant's cash.

Spragans then entered the kitchen and encountered another employee who struggled with Spragans as the employee attempted to escape, authorities said.

Spragans fired a bullet at the employee from his revolver during that encounter but the bullet missed the employee, according to federal prosecutors.

Spragans and his co-conspirator then fled the restaurant with the stolen cash and Simpson drove them away in the getaway vehicle, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Simpson also admitted in his plea agreement that earlier on April 7, 2016, he and a co-conspirator robbed a pizzeria in San Francisco at gunpoint.

Federal prosecutors said that on April 21, 2016, Spragans and Simpson attempted to rob a bar in San Francisco at gunpoint but police already were in place conducting surveillance on the location and arrested them as they tried to flee. Police also arrested a co-conspirator who was waiting in the getaway car.

The prosecutions resulted from an investigation by the FBI and the Berkeley, San Francisco, San Leandro and Albany Police departments.

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