Raul Ponce pled guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of manslaughter
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce A. Smith announced a Hempstead MS-13 member pled guilty today to murder and manslaughter charges in four separate killings in Nassau County of individuals who were perceived to be enemies of MS-13 between 2016 and 2017.
Raul Ponce, a/k/a Shadow, 23, of Hempstead, pled guilty today before Judge Helene Gugerty to two counts of murder in the second degree (an A-I felony) in the deaths of Bryan Steven Cho Lemus and Julio Cesar Espantzay-Gonzales; and two counts of manslaughter in the second degree (a B violent felony) in the deaths of Nelson Rodriguez and Osmin Campos-Sandoval. Ponce is expected to receive 32 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on January 25, 2022.
“Raul Ponce and his co-defendants participated in the tragic murders of four people, targeted because they disrespected MS-13, were perceived enemies of the gang, or were caught up in this transnational gang’s senseless, unprovoked violence,” said Acting DA Smith. “We remain committed to ridding this reprehensible violence from our communities and thank our many law enforcement partners, including the Nassau County Police Department, for their continued cooperation.”
Acting DA Smith said Ponce was responsible for the murders of Bryan Lemus on August 23, 2016, and Julio Espantzay-Gonzales on January 28, 2017.
According to the charges, on August 23, 2016, victim Bryan 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.
Lemus’ body was found on May 24, 2019, in a shallow grave inside the Massapequa Preserve by members of the Nassau County Police Department’s Homicide Bureau during a canvass of the area.
Additionally, according to the charges, Ponce and others lured 19-year-old Espantzay-Gonzales into the woods at the Massapequa Park Preserve on January 28, 2017 with promises of sex and marijuana. 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.
Espantzay-Gonzales’ body was found by a dogwalker in the preserve on March 23, 2017.
Ponce was arrested by the NCPD on June 6, 2019 for the deaths of Lemus and Espantzay-Gonzales.
Ponce also pled guilty today to manslaughter in the deaths of Nelson Rodriguez and Osmin Campos-Sandoval.
Acting DA Smith said that on March 20, 2017, Ponce and other members of MS-13 took part in the shooting death of 39-year-old Nelson Rodriguez as he walked on Front Street after working at an auto body shop.
Ponce, acting in concert with others, drove 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.
Though Rodriguez was not a member of the rival gang, previously convicted defendant Pedro Rivera was ordered to kill Rodriguez because he was a perceived enemy. Rivera shot Rodriguez once in the head, and after he fell to the ground, shot him again in the back. Rodriguez was transported to Nassau County University Medical Center where he later died.
Rivera and another co-conspirator, Carlos Flores, were convicted at trial for their roles in the murder and both were sentenced to 50 years to life in prison on October 1, 2019 by Judge Terence Murphy.
Ponce was also charged in the death of Osmin Campos-Sandoval, who was reported missing on June 3, 2016 and whose remains were found near the Uniondale water tower on October 6, 2020.
Campos-Sandoval was last seen on June 1, 2016 in the Hempstead area when he told family he was meeting with a female in Hempstead and never returned home. The investigation determined that Campos-Sandoval was lured into the wooded area near the water tower where he was shot with a weapon provided by Ponce and stabbed multiple times with a machete.
Ponce was arrested by the NCPD on November 11, 2021 for his role in the deaths of Rodriguez and Sandoval.
The case is being prosecuted by Jared Rosenblatt, Chief of the Homicide Bureau with assistance from Katie Zizza, Deputy Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau. The defendant is represented by Daniel Russo, Esq.