Federal courthouse
Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A judge sentenced a San Diego man who committed three robberies, including at two local banks, to five years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Ryan W. Nelson, 38, of San Diego, robbed the Shoe Palace at the Plaza Bonita Mall in National City, along with two bank branches located in supermarkets.

The robberies, including those at a U.S. Bank in San Diego and a Wells Fargo in La Mesa, took place within a month’s time, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Nelson pleaded guilty in October. The judge also ordered him to pay $11,572 in restitution to the businesses he robbed when he was sentenced Wednesday in San Diego federal court.

Prosecutors said the first robbery occurred on July 29, 2019 at Plaza Bonita. Nelson approached a pregnant store clerk, pointed a handgun at her and told her, “Give me all the money.”

He got about $600 in cash from the register and a safe, then told the clerk, “Don’t call anyone or I will be back in five minutes,” and fled, prosecutors said.

On Aug. 15, 2019, Nelson robbed a U.S. Bank branch inside a Vons supermarket at 6155 El Cajon Blvd. Prosecutors said he approached the teller window while pretending to talk on his cell phone, but was in fact demanding that the teller give him cash. He threatened to shoot the victim.

Nelson made off with about $1,372 and told the teller, “Wait seven minutes, I’ve got someone in the store,” then left.

Eight days later, he robbed the Wells Fargo branch inside the Vons store at 8011 University Ave. He similarly demanded cash from three bank tellers while pretending to use his phone and threatening to shoot people.

He took about $9,600 in that robbery, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

FBI agents arrested him less than a week later at his home. They found items of clothing matching those he wore during one of the bank robberies.

They also found a gun matching the one he brandished at the shoe store robbery, in addition to $2,030 in cash.

“These robberies were a terrifying and unforgettable experience for the victims,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Hopefully this sentence will restore a sense of safety to the victims and the community.”