An East Hampton man who was on the lam for nearly 20 years after, authorities said, he was driving drunk in a crash that killed his friend, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and driving while intoxicated charges, Suffolk County prosecutors said.
Wilson Pantosin, 45, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and two counts of driving while intoxicated in acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho’s Riverhead courtroom, said Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini in a news release.
He faces a maximum sentence of between 5 and 15 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 28, 20 years to the day of the crash that took his friend’s life
The plea comes after Suffolk detectives arrested Pantosin at a home in Texas in February, nearly two decades after officials said he fled following the Jan. 28, 1999, crash in East Hampton that killed Wilson Illaisaca, 25, of East Hampton. Prosecutors said he had gone as far as his native Ecuador to elude authorities.
“Almost 20 years after the defendant killed his friend while driving drunk, justice is finally being served for the victim,” Sini said in a news release. “This conviction was the result of great work and collaboration by my office, particularly Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bopp, and the Suffolk County Police Department’s Fugitive Squad who made sure this defendant answered for his crimes.”
Pantosin’s attorney, Martin Lorenzotti of Central Islip, declined to comment Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Pantosin was driving north on Hog Creek Road in a 1995 Dodge Neon when he lost control and crossed the centerline, swerving onto the southbound shoulder and striking a tree and utility pole before the car overturned and caught fire.
Pantosin got out of the vehicle and suffered minor lacerations to his head, officials said.
But officials said he left Illaisaca in the burning car and even told responding East Hampton Town police officers that he had no passenger. Springs firefighters doused the blaze and officers discovered Illaisaca’s charred body in the passenger seat, officials said.
Sini said during Pantosin's arraignment last March that an autopsy later showed that Illaisaca was killed by the fire and not the crash. Sini also said Pantosin’s blood alcohol level was .22 percent when he was tested within an hour of the crash.
Pantosin posted $1,000 bail after he was arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court but fled before a court date in March 1999, officials said, adding that Pantosin was indicted on a manslaughter charge in 2003.
Harris County, Texas, officers saw Suffolk warrants for Pantosin’s arrest and Suffolk officers traveled to the state to arrest him. In February, Pantosin arrived back in Suffolk and was later arraigned on the indictment in Central Islip, prosecutors said.