A Long Island street gang leader faces up to life in prison after admitting to his role in a bodega robbery in Brentwood that left a 57-year-old man dead five years ago.
Francisco Ponce, a reputed leader of the violent MS-13 gang, pleaded guilty Tuesday at federal court in Central Islip to racketeering and murder charges.
Prosecutors said the 31-year-old Brentwood man acted as the getaway driver for two suspects who allegedly robbed Los Hermanos Grocery in 2009, including a gunman who fatally shot Miguel Peralta, an employee at the store.
“Seeking funds to fuel their violent lifestyle in New York and abroad, [Ponce] and his cohorts robbed and terrorized Long Island neighborhoods,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
His alleged accomplices include Joyser “Baby Boy” Velasquez, who pleaded not guilty, and Carlos “Flaco” Chicas, who has yet to be apprehended. Velasquez allegedly shot Peralta in the side and Chicas allegedly shot him in the head when the victim ran away. The assailants made off with cash from the register, prosecutors said.
Ponce also admitted to his role in robbing the Pollo Campero restaurant in Lindenhurst earlier in 2009.
In that case, Ponce, Velasquez and two other MS-13 members—Wilmer “Chele” Granillo and Freddy “Pitufo” Fuentes-Gonzalez—held employees at gunpoint and forced the manager to open the safe by holding a knife to his throat. Ponce drove the getaway car in that case as well.
Fuentes-Gonzalez has pleaded guilty and faces life in prison, too. Granillo has yet to be apprehended.
Prosecutors said Ponce had acted as a liaison between MS-13 leaders in New York and the gang’s hierarchy in El Salvador by leading “The Program,” an initiative by the gang’s Central American leaders to increase control over MS-13’s international chapters, or cliques.