NEW YORK (AP) — A man who authorities say made internet threats to kidnap, injure and kill Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader prior to the arrival of officials for this week's United Nations' proceedings was ordered held without bail on Monday as a danger to the community.
Enrique Figueroa, 47, was charged in a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court with making interstate threats and making threats against a foreign official. He was arrested Sunday after law enforcement invited him to meet them at a police precinct.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Li said Figueroa made online threats in August and September before and after he was interviewed by law enforcement authorities, who twice let him go free and warned him about threats only to see them continue.
During a Manhattan federal court proceeding, Li told U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott that Figueroa was “an imminent danger” to Abinader after several “very troubling” internet posts including distributing a photograph of Abinader's motorcade Saturday and suggesting he might not make it home.
Speaking in Spanish, Abinader told television reporters Monday that he doesn’t know anything about Figueroa.
“I don’t have any details (about him). You can ask the U.S. government about that matter,” he said in an interview posted by news outlets online. He's in the city for the United Nations' annual high-level gathering known as the General Assembly.
Li said Figueroa went to Washington D.C. on Saturday to attend a rally at the U.S. Capitol billed to support those charged in January's insurrection.
He also described him as a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which suggests that former President Donald Trump was fighting a secret campaign against a Satan-worshipping cabal of deep state enemies, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites operating a child sex-trafficking ring.
A picture of Trump was among photographs on an Instagram page that belonged to Figueroa, according to court papers.
Li said threats were ominous in part because Figueroa's sister got an order of protection against him after he recently pulled a knife on her and tried to strangle her. As the prosecutor spoke, Figueroa repeatedly shook his head.
Li also said Figueroa had a kitchen knife on him when he arrived Friday for a voluntary interview with law enforcement officers and had posted a picture of himself with a military-style assault rifle on one of his social media pages.
He also had tried to fly from New York City to the Dominican Republic on Sept. 11, but was rejected because his passport had expired, authorities said.
Amy Gallicchio, an assistant federal defender who represented Figueroa in court, had urged he be released on bail, saying his online postings were “not a real threat to anyone.”
“These are words, hollow words, and nothing that suggests there is any intent to carry out any of those supposed threats,” she said.
She called it “mere speculation” that her client, who is homeless and unemployed, would not show up for court appearances.
Figueroa appeared in a Facebook video on Aug. 22, to say he had been betrayed by Abinader, the complaint said, adding that he referenced the July assassination of Haiti's president too.
During Friday's voluntary interview with law enforcement officers, Figueroa admitted he had made public posts directed at the president and understood his posts could be perceived as threatening but said he did not intend to harm the president, the complaint said.
It said he claimed he made the posts to warn that others might harm the president if corruption continued in the country where he said he had himself been elected as president but declined to serve in the position because he wanted to focus on fighting corruption.