See van owned by suspect in mail bombs case

See a close-up of the van owned by the suspect that was arrested in connection to the suspicious packages sent to Trump critics across the US.

Posted: Oct 27, 2018 7:16 PM
Updated: Oct 27, 2018 7:30 PM

Cesar Sayoc, the man sources say was arrested Friday in connection with suspected explosive packages sent to prominent figures, has an arrest history that includes a bombing threat against a Florida utility company, records show.

Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, was arrested Friday morning at a business in Plantation, Florida, some 30 miles north of Miami, a source said.

DNA found on at least one of the packages helped investigators identify Sayoc as a suspect, and investigators also were able to use his cell phone to track him, law enforcement officials told CNN.

Here's what we know:

• Some packages sent to several political figures included photographs of the targets with a red X marked across their faces, according to a criminal complaint filed against Sayoc.

• The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock International said in a statement there was "no evidence" the suspect "is or was a member or employee of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, or is or was an employee of Seminole Gaming or Hard Rock International. At this time, we cannot verify if he is or was an employee of a vendor company."

Sayoc described himself on Twitter as the "Current Booking Agent/Sales/Marketing/Promotions/Project Mgr Live Events" at Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida.

• As recently as Wednesday, Sayoc posted a tweet that was critical of billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, former President Barack Obama and others, according to the complaint. A package to Soros was recovered two days earlier, on Monday.

• At the arrest scene Friday morning, a van in Plantation was towed away to Miramar, Florida, where an FBI field office is located, a law enforcement official said. The van's exterior features images of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as well as a "CNN Sucks" sticker, video footage shows.

• Facebook video showed the bomb suspect in a MAGA hat at Trump rally in 2016.

• He is a registered Republican, according to Florida Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell, citing the state's Division of Elections records.

• Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Sayoc faces at least five federal counts, including interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former Presidents and certain other persons, threatening interstate communications and assaulting current and former federal officers. He faces up to 48 years in prison.

"This is law and order administration," Sessions told reporters. "We will not tolerate such lawlessness."

He added, "Let this be a lesson to anyone -- regardless of their political beliefs -- that we will bring the full force of law against anyone who attempts to use threats, intimidation, and outright violence to further any agenda. We will find you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law."

• Sayoc was initially somewhat cooperative after his arrest, telling investigators the pipe bombs wouldn't have hurt anyone, and that he didn't want to hurt anyone, according to a law enforcement official. He has now retained a lawyer and his questioning has ended.

• Sayoc will appear in a Miami federal court on Monday, according to the Southern District of New York, where five federal charges are to be prosecuted.

• Five of the 13 packages mailed were routed through a US Postal Service processing center in Opa-Locka, Florida, according to a criminal complaint.

• A fingerprint was lifted from an envelope containing a device intended for US Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, a criminal complaint said. A "possible DNA association" collected from devices sent to Waters and former President Barack Obama and a sample collected during one of Sayoc's earlier arrests in Florida is being investigated, Wray said.

• FBI Director Chris Wray said 13 improvised explosive devices were sent. Each consisted of "roughly 6 inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, some wiring and what is known as 'energetic material,' which is essentially potential explosive and materials that give off heat and energy through a reaction to heat, shock or friction. Though we are still analyzing the devices in our laboratory these are not hoax devices."

He added, "Today's arrest does not mean we are all out of the woods. There may be more packages in transit now."

• Sayoc has a string of arrests dating back to the early 1990s, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show.

Notable among them was a 2002 arrest in which Miami police alleged Sayoc threatened to bomb the Florida Power and Light Co. and said that "it would be worse than September 11th."

"The defendant contacted a rep (from) Florida Power and Light Co. ... by telephone and threatened to blow up FPL," a Miami Police Department report about the incident reads.

The caller "threatened to blow up the building if FP&L turned off his light," the report reads.

The online state records describe the offense as "threat to bomb" and "threaten to discharge destructive device." They show that Sayoc pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation. There is also a notation about the adjudication being withheld.

• The records show at least nine arrests, including on suspicion of grand theft, battery, fraud, drug possession and probation violations.

Sayoc was convicted by plea of stealing copper pipes from a Home Depot in Hollywood, Florida, in 2014, court documents show. He'd been charged with petit theft.

The adjudication of some of the other arrests could not immediately be determined from the summary of offenses provided by the Department of Law Enforcement. Sayoc appears to have pleaded no contest to some offenses, and prosecutors seem to have dropped charges in other matters.

He was also arrested in April 1999 for possession of a stolen vehicle, according to Angie Grube, spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Sheriff's office.

• Sayoc had been kicked out by his parents and was living in the white van widely seen in pictures Friday, according to a law enforcement official.

• A 2012 bankruptcy filing in Florida indicates that Sayoc "lives with his mom, owns no furniture." The 46-page filing, signed by Sayoc in June 2012, lists total assets of $4,175 and liabilities of $21,109.

• Sayoc was also arrested in April 1999 in North Carolina on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle, said Angie Grube, a spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office. But the district attorney's office dismissed the charges, said Tim Ayock, spokesman for police in the town of Matthews.

The arrest happened when a Matthews officer "stopped to help a broken-down vehicle and it turned out to be a stolen vehicle," Ayock said.

It's not clear why the charges were dismissed, Ayock said. Charlotte-Mecklenburg district attorney's office spokeswoman Meghan McDonald declined to comment about the case.

• He attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, according to the school's communications office. He was an undeclared major and played on the soccer team. Sayoc attended for one year and did not graduate.

• Sayoc was a student at Brevard College in North Carolina, school spokeswoman Christie Cauble told CNN. He enrolled at Brevard in fall 1980 and attended classes there for three semesters but didn't graduate, Cauble said.

• Sayoc was not previously known to the Secret Service, law enforcement sources said.

• He has ties to New York, a source said.

Suspect had "trouble conforming," lawyer says

When Sayoc had his electricity shut off in 2002, he grew frustrated with efforts to convince the power company to turn it back on, his longtime attorney recalled Friday.

"I bet if I threatened to blow up your office you'd turn it back on quickly," Sayoc's then-attorney, Ronald S. Lowy, quoted him as saying.

Lowy, who represented Sayoc in the Miami case, told CNN his client never intended to make good on the threat. Sayoc was sentenced to a year's probation "and allowed to continue with his life," his lawyer said.

Lowy said Sayoc had "trouble conforming" and "didn't fit in." The lawyer said he was not surprised the explosive devices his client is accused of assembling and mailing did not explode. He questioned Sayoc's ability to successfully devise and execute such a scheme.

Sayoc was embroiled in petty offenses over time. In one case, Lowy said, Sayoc altered his driver's license to make himself appear younger. Sayoc had remained single and thought his age may be hurting him on the dating scene, the lawyer said.

"He was embarrassed about his age," Lowy said.

Sayoc frequented the gym and worked as a personal trainer at one point, Lowy said.

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