Cesar Sayoc: The extensive criminal record and bizarre social media accounts of Florida man arrested in mail-bombing scandal

Suspect faces up to 48 years in prison 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Saturday 27 October 2018 09:31
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pipe bomb florida

A Florida man has been charged with sending 13 packages containing explosive devices and pipe bombs to CNN and several prominent Democrats, all vocal critics of Donald Trump.

Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr, 56, was arrested in Plantation, Florida, outside an auto-parts store and faces up to 48 years in prison, according to the US Justice Department.

The suspect has a long criminal record dating back to 1991 and appears to have a social media presence full of tweets and posts in support of the president and Republicans.

The news of his arrest comes after a string of packages containing explosives and one with “white powder” were found or intercepted, addressed to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama, former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper both via packages addressed to CNN, House Democrat Maxine Waters, former US attorney general Eric Holder, former vice president Joe Biden, Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and billionaire Democrat donor Tom Steyer.

Mr Biden and Ms Waters both received two separate packages, bringing the total to 13.

It began with a package containing an explosive device sent to billionaire George Soros, who has contributed millions of dollars to the Democrats.

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Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney of the Southern District of New York, said Mr Sayoc is being charged with five counts: interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of an explosive, threats against former presidents, threatening interstate communications, and assaulting federal officers.

“The defendant’s conduct is cowardly, reprehensible, and totally anathema to our democracy,” Mr Berman said at a press conference.

Mr Sessions, during the same press conference, reminded Americans Mr Sayoc is innocent until proven guilty under the US criminal justice system but later noted: “We do believe we’ve caught the right guy.”

However, he also said “this is a law and order administration” and warned the government would prosecute anyone “regardless of political beliefs” should they resort to such crimes, “especially political violence”.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said: “Today’s arrest is a testament to the strength of our partnerships” in the law enforcement community and commended his agents as well as those from other agencies, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and New York and Florida police.

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He said “these were not hoax devices,” contrary to a line pushed by several supporters of Mr Trump on social media channels.

According to the director each package contained a “six inch PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and energetic material”.

The material, Mr Wray said, would make the bombs “‘functional’ if subjected to the right combination of heat, shock or friction”. He also said “certain of the mailings included photographs of the target-recipients marked with a red “X”.

Mr Wray also confirmed all the packages had the same return address, that of US House Democrat from south Florida Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also former chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

He added that a fingerprint on a package sent to congresswoman Maxine Waters had been key in identifying the suspect.

There is also “a possible DNA association” between a prior sample of Mr Sayoc’s DNA and a sample taken from packages sent to Mr Obama and Ms Waters.

Despite the praise he received following the rapid arrest, he cautioned it “doesn’t mean we’re all out of the woods..[there] may be other packages in transit now”.

He would not elaborate on the total number of packages or where they could have been sent.

According to his Facebook profile, Mr Sayoc is originally from Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Florida and attended high school in Miami Beach.

The registered Republican reportedly lived in Aventura, Florida, at the time of his arrest but that he could have been before he was kicked out of his parents’ home and he began living in his van.

The white van seen outside of his arrest location was covered in stickers in support of Mr Trump and vice president Mike Pence. The political paraphernalia also included a sticker that read “CNN sucks”. It could be seen, covered in blue tarp, and being towed away for further investigation.

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Mr Sayoc worked as a catering manager for a company called Native American Catering and Vending in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Native American tribes like the Seminole Tribe of Florida have said Mr Sayoc has no affiliation with them either as a member or employee.

Public records also indicate his home was foreclosed on in 2009, which led to him declaring bankruptcy in 2012.

His social media is littered with images of him wearing the president’s signature “Make America Great Again” red hat and there is at least one video of Mr Sayoc chanting Mr Trump’s name at an indoor political rally.

According to the Miami Herald newspaper, Mr Sayoc stopped posting on his Facebook profile in October 2016 after a series of Trump rally videos.

Mr Sayoc, at one point, frequently posted memes hitting out at Democrats and Islam, which one meme he posted characterised as “a barbaric evil cult”.

One particular post from September 2016 read: “Hilary Clinton health decline and headed to graveyard where she has had many executed. The lord delivering death and America will celebrate.”

Mr Sayoc’s criminal record dates back to at least 1992, when he was arrested on theft charges in Miami-Dade county.

In 2002, he was arrested again in Miami-Dade for making bomb threats and ended up on probation in 2014 after another arrest on theft and battery.

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