Nassau County District Attorney Anne T.  Donnelly speaks at the...

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T.  Donnelly speaks at the David S. Mack Center for Training and Intelligence in Garden City in March. Credit: Barry Sloan

An alleged leader of the MS-13 gang has been convicted of murder for organizing the January 2017 machete killing of a teenager in the Massapequa Preserve, Nassau County prosecutors said Friday.

A jury found Carlos Portillo, 28 – the alleged second-in-command of the Indios Locos Salvatrucha (ILS) clique of MS-13 – guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of Julio Cesar Espantzay-Gonzales, 19, following a seven-day trial in Nassau County Court in Mineola.

“High-ranking MS-13 member Carlos Portillo ordered the murder of an innocent 19-year-old man, simply because he wore the wrong color,” Nassau County District Anne T. Donnelly said in a statement. “Portillo provided a gun and a machete for the gruesome task and instructed his gang subordinates on how and where to kill Espantzay-Gonzales.”

Joseph Lo Piccolo, Portillo’s Garden City-based defense attorney, denied his client was in the leadership of the gang and had any involvement in orchestrating the victim’s killing.

“He maintains that he was not involved in the planning or orchestrating of the death of Mr. Espantzay-Gonzales,” said Lo Piccolo. “He never denied being a member of MS-13, specifically what’s called the ILS sect of MS-13, however he maintains he was merely present when other members of MS-13, who have since been arrested and convicted, were planning or ordering this homicide. He disputes that he was in the leadership. He denies giving any aid to the people who unfortunately killed Mr. Espantzay-Gonzales. Unfortunately, the jury found otherwise. We respect the jury’s decision but will be filing an appeal.”

Espantzay-Gonzales was reported missing to police on Jan. 31, 2017, and his body was discovered by a dog walker in the Massapequa Park Preserve nearly two months later, authorities have said.

Prosecutors said Espantzay-Gonzales was lured to the woods on Jan. 28, 2017 with the promise of sex and marijuana. But once there, he was hacked to death with machetes by Portillo’s co-defendants, including Kevin Granados-Coreas, 23, who is also known as Lonely, Antonio Cullal, also known as Duke; Raul Ponce, also known as Shadow; and Gerson Stanley Juarez, also known as Angel Black. The victim was also shot in the face, prosecutors said, and his body was covered by tree branches and leaves.

Portillo, also known as Pikachu, and Roberto Abrego-Reyes, also known as Splinter, ordered the murder because Espantzay-Gonzales was perceived to be an enemy of the gang, prosecutors said.

Granados-Coreas allegedly told Abrego-Reyes, Portillo and Cullal that Espantzay-Gonzales was an enemy of the gang after he allegedly wore the wrong color when invited to a known gang location. Abrego-Reyes, as the alleged leader of clique, gave the order to Portillo, that Espantzay-Gonzales must be killed, prosecutors said.

Portillo instructed the other gang members on how and where to kill Espantzay-Gonzales, and provided them with the tools: a car, a gun and a machete, according to prosecutors.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty is scheduled to sentence Portillo on March 7. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

Granados-Coreas, Cullal and Ponce have previously pleaded guilty for their roles in Espantzay-Gonzales’ killing. They are currently serving sentences ranging from 20 years to life to 32 years to life in prison.

The cases against co-defendants Laura Campos, the alleged getaway driver, Abrego-Reyes and Juarez are pending.

Deputy Bureau Chief Katie Zizza of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau and Deputy Bureau Chief Daryl Levy of the Homicide Bureau prosecuted the case.

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