Ponce expected to receive life sentence for his role in the murder
The spate of gang-related violence that’s found its way to the Massapequa Park Preserve in the form of fatalities in the past few years took its most recent turn when acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce A. Smith announced the guilty plea of an alleged MS-13 member for his role in the brutal 2016 murder of a Uniondale teenager in the preserve.
Samuel Ponce, aka Little Chickie of Hempstead, pled guilty on Tuesday, June 29, before Judge Helene Gugerty to the second-degree murder of Bryan Steven Cho Lemus. The maximum sentence for the 20-year-old defendant for this A-I felony is 15 years to life in prison because at the time of the crime he was 15 years old. Ponce is expected to be sentenced to 9 years to life in prison on August 25, 2021.
The Nassau County District Attorney (NCDA) recommended a sentence of 11 years to life in prison.
“Bryan Lemus was just 18 years old when he was viciously attacked and violently murdered with machetes by the defendant and multiple MS-13 members,” Smith said. “The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office has for years been committed to prosecuting the brutal crimes of members of MS-13, to rid gang violence from the streets of Nassau County and secure justice for the victims and their families. I thank our partners at the Nassau County Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and FBI Long Island Gang Task Force for their assistance in this case.”
Smith said that on August 23, 2016, victim Lemus 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. Ponce was arrested by the NCPD on September 17, 2019 following the investigation.
In January 2020, Ponce, along with three other MS-13 members (Christian Rodrigues, aka Estricto, of Hempstead; Jeustin David Maldonado, aka Muerte, of Uniondale; Gerson Stanley Juarez, aka Angel Black, and Siniestro, of Hempstead) were indicted for their part in Lemus’ murder by then-NCDA Madeline Singas. All four were charged with first- and second-degree conspiracy and second-degree murder.
In the past decade, MS-13 has been responsible for homicides in Central Islip, Freeport and the additional 2017 Massapequa Preserve murder of Julio Cesar Espantzay-Gonzales by 26-year-old gang member Antonio Cullal, who pled guilty to second-degree murder and second-degree conspiracy last month. Smith said that Carlos Portillo and Robert Abrego-Reyes ordered the murder because Espantzay-Gonzales, like Lemus before him, was perceived to be an enemy of the gang. Cullal faces up to life in prison when sentenced on Aug. 10.
Jared Rosenblatt, Chief of the Homicide Bureau, is prosecuting the Ponce case with assistance from Katie Zizza, Deputy Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau, and Patrick Brand, Senior Investigative Counsel in the Major Crimes Bureau. The defendant is represented by Dennis Lemke, Esq.