Cesar Sayoc, arrested in bomb plot against Trump’s critics, is a registered Republican with a long criminal history
- Sayoc, 56, is an amateur body builder who has been arrested 10 times before, including for making a bomb threat in 2002
- He attended Trump rallies, his van is covered with pro-Trump stickers, and his social media accounts are filled with memes attacking the president’s opponents
The Florida man in custody in connection with the mail bombs sent to Democratic political figures is a fervent supporter of US President Donald Trump with an extensive record of past arrests, including a stint served on probation for making a bomb threat.
Cesar Altieri Sayoc, 56, of Aventura is an amateur body builder and businessman whose online resume describes him as a promoter and booking agent for male stripper and burlesque shows. He was born in New York City and attended college in North Carolina before moving to the Miami suburbs in the late 1980s.
His former lawyer described him as a mentally ill man searching for a way to fit into American society, after failing at everything.
“He wasn’t successful in anything he did,” Ron Lowy said. “He’s been bankrupt, gone into foreclosure. He’s 14 years old living in an adult body.”
He is a registered Republican with social media accounts containing memes supporting Trump, denigrating Democrats, and promoting conspiracy theories about George Soros, the billionaire political donor who was the first targeted this week by a package bomb. He also attended Trump rallies, according to photos and videos he posted on Facebook.
At the auto parts store in Plantation, Florida, where Sayoc was taken into custody, authorities towed away his white van, covered with stickers supporting Trump and criticising media outlets that included CNN, the news channel also targeted by a mail bomb this week.
Some stickers featured Democrats including Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton with crosshairs over their faces.
Daniel Aaronson, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represented Sayoc in a 2014 misdemeanour case in which he was accused of stealing “various copper piping items” in Hollywood, said he was stunned to hear that Sayoc is considered a suspect in the case.
“I am floored,” Aaronson said. “There are 330 million people in the US, I would have put him in the bottom 2 to 3 million of people I would suspect of doing this.”
“He was the most respectful client that I think I’ve ever had. I didn’t think he had a political bone in his body. I cannot believe that this would be the case that he would have done anything like this.”
Watch: Trump blames media for divisive political climate after bomb scares
Court records in Florida show that Sayoc was arrested in 2002 and served a year of probation for a felony charge of threatening to throw or place a bomb.
Court records available online did not immediately provide further details about the case, but his lawyer in the case said it involved a heated conversation with a Florida utility representative.
Lowy, a Miami lawyer, said Sayoc became frustrated about a lack of service and told a Florida Power and Light employee “something to the effect that ‘You’re not taking care of my problem and I bet you would if I threw a bomb at you’”. Lowy said Sayoc showed no ability at the time to back up his threat with any bomb-making expertise.
The lawyer went on to describe Sayoc as “a confused man who had trouble controlling his emotions”.
Lowy said Sayoc displayed no political leanings at the time except for plastering a vehicle he owned with Native American signs. Lowy said Sayoc told him his father was Native American.
Sayoc was also convicted in 2014 for grand theft and misdemeanour theft of less than US$300, and in 2013 for battery.
In 2004, he faced several felony charges for unlawful possession of a synthetic anabolic steroid often used to help build muscles.
He also had several arrests for theft in the 1990s and faced a felony charge for obtaining fraudulent refunds and a misdemeanour count of tampering with physical evidence.
Watch: ‘Acts of terror’: pipe bombs sent to Clinton, Obama and others
Lowy said he recalled that Sayoc also had a run-in with authorities over possession of steroids and another case in Broward County where he was charged with possessing a fake driving licence after altering his birth date to make him appear younger.
“His mind doesn’t seem to operate like most people’s,” Lowy said. “It shows in his anger, his emotion and his behaviour.”
Sayoc’s name is listed on business records tied to dry cleaning and catering businesses. Records also suggest he also had recent financial problems, including filling for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 2012.
In court records filed as part of the bankruptcy case, Sayoc was described as having US$4,175 in personal property and more than US$21,000 in debts. His monthly income at the time was US$1,070.
“Debtor lives with mother, owns no furniture,” Sayoc’s lawyer indicated in a property list. He owned a 2001 Chevy Tahoe with 450,000km on the odometer. Most of his debt was from unpaid credit cards opened up in South Florida and banks across the US.
Court files show Sayoc completed a financial management course and was discharged from his debts in September 2012. Sayoc’s mother, Madeline, also filed for bankruptcy at the same time and was discharged in January 2017. She did not immediately respond to phone messages.
Sayoc’s bankruptcy attorney, Christian Olson, declined to comment.
A Twitter account that appears to belong to Sayoc, @hardrock2016, includes memes denouncing Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, including a photo of Soros made to look like he’s holding a puppet that resembles Gillum.
Other posts called Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg “fake phony”. He posted memes repeatedly attacking Hogg in July. He also called Governor Rick Scott “greatest Governor Ever” in a posting that shows the Republican governor alongside Trump.
In June, he praised Trump in a birthday message saying: “Happy Birthday President Donald J. Trump the greatest result President ever.”