Man Threatened Life of Dominican President, Prosecutors Say
Federal authorities in New York have arrested a man who they said had posted threats on the internet to kill Luis Abinader, the president of the …
Federal authorities in New York have arrested a man who they said had posted threats on the internet to kill Luis Abinader, the president of the Dominican Republic, who arrived on Saturday for the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations.
Enrique Figueroa, 47, began making the threats in August against Mr. Abinader, according to a criminal complaint made public on Monday. In one instance last month, Mr. Figueroa posted a video on Facebook invoking the assassination in July of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, saying that listeners should remember what had happened to him, the complaint said.
The complaint, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, noted that early this month, the Dominican government provided U.S. law enforcement authorities with a screenshot of an Instagram post by Mr. Figueroa that showed a military-style assault rifle, accompanied by a caption that named Mr. Abinader and said, “We will see each other at the beginning of September.”
Mr. Figueroa was arrested on Sunday evening after using Instagram to post a photograph of Mr. Abinader’s motorcade in New York, and another image of himself dialing a phone, with the caption warning that if the call was not picked up, Mr. Abinader would not leave the United States, and “you will then know who is crazy.”
Mr. Figueroa was ordered detained on Monday by a magistrate judge, James L. Cott.
In court, a federal prosecutor, Alexander Li, said Mr. Figueroa was interviewed by the authorities on Sept. 11, when he tried unsuccessfully to board a flight to the Dominican Republic; he told investigators that he was a member of QAnon and he was planning to attend a rally in Washington this past Saturday.
The government believed he had attended the Justice for J6 rally, Mr. Li said. (Mr. Figueroa was blocked from the flight because of an expired passport, the complaint said.)
Mr. Li also told the judge that Mr. Figueroa was arrested late last month in a domestic violence case, in which he had been accused of attempting to strangle a female relative.
Mr. Figueroa appeared visibly agitated in court, saying, after the hearing ended, “Those are not my posts” as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. His lawyer, Amy Gallicchio, declined to comment after the hearing.
Mr. Abinader, who had never before held elective office, won the presidency in July of last year with nearly 53 percent of the vote, ending a 16-year hold on power by the country’s center-left party. Once heavily involved in the Caribbean nation’s tourism industry, he ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2012 and for president in 2016, when he finished second.
He is expected to address the General Assembly on Wednesday, the president’s office said in a statement.
Efforts to reach the Dominican Republic’s permanent mission by phone and email on Monday were unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for the president did not respond to a message on Twitter seeking comment.
Mr. Figueroa was interviewed a second time by the authorities on Friday, two days before his arrest, the complaint shows.
Members of the Joint Terrorist Task Force visited him, and during the course of the interview, he seemed chastened and assured the federal agents and detectives that he “didn’t mean it,” and that “nothing would happen again,” according to a senior law enforcement official.
But, the next day, he posted the two photographs on Instagram with the threatening comments, the complaint said.
The official said that investigators do not believe that Mr. Figueroa represents a significant threat, but that he was charged because he ignored the warning and repeated the threats. The official suggested that alcohol may have been involved.
William K. Rashbaum and Sean Piccoli contributed reporting from New York and Oscar Lopez from Mexico City.