A 23-year-old street gang member on Long Island may spend the rest of his life behind bars after being sentenced for his role in four separate homicides of perceived enemies of MS-13.
Raul Ponce, of Hempstead, also known as “Shadow,” pleaded guilty last fall to two counts of murder in the deaths of Bryan Steven Cho Lemus and Julio Cesar Espantzay-Gonzales; and two counts of manslaughter for the deaths of Nelson Rodriguez and Osmin Campos-Sandoval, the Nassau County DA announced.
On Tuesday, Jan. 25, a judge sentenced Ponce to a term of 32 years to life in prison.
According to prosecutors, Ponce was responsible for the murders of Lemus on Aug. 23, 2016, and Espantzay-Gonzales on Jan. 28, 2017.
Officials said that Lemus, a perceived enemy of MS-13, was walking his dog on Arthur Street in Uniondale when he was lured into the Massapequa Preserve. While inside the park, Lemus was allegedly killed with machetes by Ponce and other members of MS-13.
His body was not found for years until May 24, 2019, when his remains were located in a shallow grave during a canvas of the area by the Nassau County Police Department’s Homicide bureau.
Ponce and others also lured 19-year-old Espantzay-Gonzales into the woods at the Massapequa Park Preserve on the day of his murder in January 2017, with promises of sex and marijuana, prosecutors said.
Once in the preserve, Ponce and others hacked Espantzay-Gonzales to death with machetes. They later disposed of the body under tree branches, leaves, and other brush, which wasn’t located for nearly two months.
Ponce was arrested by the Nassau County Police Department on June 6, 2019, for the deaths of Lemus and Espantzay-Gonzales.
Prosecutors said that on March 20, 2017, Ponce and other members of MS-13 took part in the shooting death of 39-year-old Rodriguez as he walked on Front Street after working at an area auto body shop.
Ponce, acting with his co-conspirators, had driven from Uniondale to Hempstead looking for a member of a rival gang to shoot and kill in retaliation for an assault on an MS-13 member before Rodriguez's death.
He was also charged with the death of Campos-Sandoval, who was reported missing on June 3, 2016, and whose remains were found near the Uniondale water tower on October 6, 2020.
Ponce was arrested by the Nassau County Police Department on Thursday, Nov. 11, for his role in the deaths of Rodriguez and Sandoval.
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