Rafael Flores, a political operative and one-time surrogate for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in the Latino community, was charged with extortion in El Salvador on Tuesday after prosecutors said he impersonated a U.S. drug enforcement agent in a plot to extort a local mayor.
Flores, 45, who lives part-time in East Meadow, also serves as a Hispanic outreach liaison for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, which supported President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign.
Flores’ brother, Herberth, is the deputy director of Nassau’s Office of Minority Affairs.
Rafael Flores and Santos Edgardo Guzman Ayala were arrested in an undercover operation after they “demanded” $15,000 from a politician in exchange for not damaging his “image and prestige,” according to El Salvador’s Office of Attorney General.
Flores met with the mayor at a hotel in San Salvador, displayed a badge and identified himself an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, authorities said.
The men told the mayor that for cash payments they would serve as a lobbyist for Salvadoran politicians to improve “their image and process them an American visa,” according prosecutors.
Flores told reporters in El Salvador Thursday that the allegations were “false” and that local authorities want to “silence” him for his criticism of political corruption.
Flores, who has run unsuccessfully for elected office in El Salvador, hosts a weekly online interview program in the country and has accused politicians there of being involved in the drug trafficking industry.
In an interview Thursday, Herberth Flores of Hempstead said his brother was “set up.” The hotel meeting, he said, was to get the mayor to sponsor an event honoring Salvadoran politicians at the Coral House in Baldwin on Feb. 9.
Rafael Flores will appear before a judge Friday. Herberth Flores, who earns an annual salary $105,597 in his Nassau County job, said he hopes Rafael will be released and allowed to return to Long Island.
In 2004, the brothers were among eight individuals charged in an insurance scam involving patients at Nassau University Medical Center. Prosecutors said they bribed hospital workers to pass along personal information about patients, predominantly Hispanics, who were admitted to the emergency room after crashes.
The Floreses “solicited accident victims, referred them to attorneys, coached them to exaggerate their injuries and transported them to appointments with attorneys and medical providers,” according to the felony complaint.
Herberth and Rafael Flores each pleaded guilty to attempted bribery charges in 2005. Rafael was sentenced to 90 days in jail and Herberth was sentenced to 60 days.
In 2009, the brothers were a driving force behind “Latinos for Mangano,” a group that helped the then-GOP county executive candidate gain traction in minority communities. The Mangano administration declined comment.
In 2012, Rafael Flores sparked protests for arranging to bring then-Salvadoran Vice President, and now President, Salvador Sanchez Cerén to Long Island. Ceren had attended anti-U.S. demonstrations after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Flores told Newsday last month he supported Trump “because he is not going to give blank checks to these Central American governments where there is so much corruption going on.”
The National Diversity Coalition for Trump did not respond to a request for comment on Flores’ arrest.