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Nassau County bulletproof vests went to El Salvador police

Rafael Flores, a political operative and one-time surrogate

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 Dec.20, 2016 after prosecutors said he impersonated a U.S. drug enforcement agent in a plot to extort a local mayor. Credit: Handout

A Spanish-language newspaper reporting the arrest last week in El Salvador of Rafael Flores, a Republican political operative who campaigned for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, mentioned that Flores had announced the donation of 600 bulletproof vests to El Salvador police last June. The article said the vests were donated by the Salvadoran United Fraternity Association.

But the used bulletproof vests actually came from Nassau County, where Flores’ brother, Herbeth, is the $105,597 deputy director of minority affairs.

The Nassau County Legislature in November 2015 approved the donation of about 700 used body armor vests to the government of El Salvador “to be used by its police officers for their protection.”

County records show that Benito Antonio Lara Fernandez, minister of justice and public security for El Salvador, had requested the donation of the vests in July 2015.

“We await for your favorable answer to our request, which may be channeled through Mr. Rafael Flores, who supports us in various ways from the United States of America,” Fernandez wrote in Spanish to acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter and Mangano. His letter was translated into English for county lawmakers.

The county legislature agreed unanimously to donate the vests through the U.S. State Department for distribution, rather than directly to the government of El Salvador, after lawmakers were told the vests no longer met current safety standards for Nassau police.

Flores, who lives part-time in both East Meadow and El Salvador, was charged with extortion on Dec. 20. Prosecutors said he impersonated a U.S. drug enforcement agent in a plot to extort $15,000 from a mayor in El Salvador. Flores has denied the allegations.

Flores and his brother, Herbeth, were a driving force behind Latinos for Mangano in the county executive’s election campaigns. Rafael Flores also served as a Hispanic outreach liaison for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, which supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Rafael and Herbert Flores pleaded guilty to attempted bribery in 2005 as part of an insurance scam to sell patient information from the Nassau University Medical Center. When Mangano was questioned about his hiring of Herbeth Flores in 2010, he said, “Welcome to our second chance administration.”

Mangano has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges of bribery and fraud for allegedly trading county contracts for meals, trips and other gifts from indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh.

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