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MS-13 gang menber sentenced in Far Rockaway and Lawrence murders

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A member of the street gang MS-13, Yonathan Sanchez, 43, a/k/a Turbo, was sentenced to 34 years to life in prison on July 1 by Judge Tammy Robbins for his role in two murders. 

He is one of a half dozen MS-13 members alleged to be involved in the Dec. 15 murders of Far Rockaway resident Ian Cruz, 23, who was perceived to be an enemy of MS-13, and Harold B. Sermeno, 17, also of Far Rockaway, two days later, behind the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence.

“This defendant brutally murdered two young men as part of MS-13’s failed campaign for dominance,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a news release. “Working together, law enforcement has decimated this gang on Long Island, and Sanchez will join his many fellow gang members spending decades to life behind bars.”

The case against co-defendants, Carlos Guerra, 20, and Elmer Gutierrez, 20, a/k/a Revolver, of Valley Stream, are pending. The cases against two juveniles, a 17-year old male (15 at the time of the crime) and a 14-year old female (13 at the time of the crime) are also pending. They were charged with murder second-degree for both incidents. One 17-year-old male (15 at the time of the crime) pleaded guilty to one count of murder second-degree and is expected to be sentenced to 8-1/2 years to life in prison.

Cruz was lured to Bayswater Point State Park, also in Far Rockaway, with the promise of drugs and sex. Cruz met the girl and then walked to the park, while Sanchez, allegedly Guerra and the boy hid in the park armed with knives. Sanchez emerged from the bushes and shot Cruz four times in the head with a .22 caliber revolver.

Before the murder, the gang members planned Cruz’s murder and photographs of Cruz allegedly disrespecting MS-13 were circulated among them, the DA’s office said. He was found by a park-goer the following day, in his underwear and on top of a blanket. The gang members took Cruz’s belongings and fled to a Nameoke Street apartment in Far Rockaway, where Sanchez and Guerra lived.

Sermeno was also enticed to go to Community Center. He and the girl were at a park area on the Lawrence Avenue property and began to drink and smoke at a picnic table, according to the DA.

The five other gang members, armed with a gun and knives, waited in strategic areas in the park. Sanchez then emerged and shot Sermeno four times in the head and once in the chest, also with a .22 revolver. Gutierrez allegedly sliced the victim’s neck with a machete. Then they returned to the same Far Rockaway apartment. A person walking a dog found Sermeno the following morning.

At the time of his death, Sermeno was a Lawrence High School student, who was suspended from school. He was being home-schooled at the center.

The police recovered the machete that was allegedly used in the murder of Sermeno and a .22 caliber revolver that was allegedly used in both murders at the Nameoke apartment.

Members of the NYPD arrested Sanchez, Guerra, Gutierrez and two of the three juveniles on Dec. 20, 2018 in Far Rockaway. Members of the NYPD and NCPD arrested the third juvenile on Dec. 28, 2018.