Bomb sus­pect: Ex-strip­per with cash prob­lems, Trump de­vo­tion

Sunday Star - - NATION - By MICHAEL BIESECKER and STEPHEN BRAUN As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Ce­sar Sayoc is an ama­teur body builder and for­mer strip­per, a loner with a long ar­rest record who showed lit­tle in­ter­est in pol­i­tics un­til Don­ald Trump came along.

On Fri­day, he was iden­ti­fied by au­thor­i­ties as the Florida man who put pipe bombs in small manila en­velopes, af­fixed six stamps and sent them to some of Trump’s most prom­i­nent crit­ics.

His ar­rest capped a week in which the bombs aimed at some of Amer­ica’s big­gest names — Obama, Clin­ton, De Niro — dom­i­nated the news and in­vited spec­u­la­tion about who might be re­spon­si­ble for them. The an­swer, au­thor­i­ties said, was Sayoc, a 56-year-old man from Aven­tura, Florida, who was de­voted to Trump, had a his­tory of fi­nan­cial prob­lems and an ex­ten­sive ar­rest record, in­clud­ing a stint on pro­ba­tion for mak­ing a bomb threat.

His at­tor­ney in that 2002 case, Ron­ald Lowy, de­scribed Sayoc as “a con­fused man who had trou­ble con­trol­ling his emo­tions.”

A cousin of Sayoc, Lenny Altieri, used stronger terms.

“I know the guy is a lu­natic,” Altieri told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “He has been a loner.”

Altieri con­firmed that Sayoc had been a strip­per. On an on­line re­sume, Sayoc de­scribed him­self as a booker and pro­moter for bur­lesque shows.

Stacy Sac­cal, the gen­eral man­ager of the Ul­tra Gen­tle­men’s Club in West Palm Beach, said Sayoc had worked there for about two months, first as a floor bouncer and for the past month as a disc jockey — most re­cently on Thurs­day night, hours be­fore his ar­rest Fri­day morn­ing.

“I didn’t know this guy was mad crazy like this,” she said Fri­day. “Never once did he speak pol­i­tics. This is a bar. We don’t talk pol­i­tics or reli­gion in a bar, you know?”

Florida voter records show Sayoc first reg­is­tered in March 2016 as a Repub­li­can and cast a bal­lot in that Novem­ber’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

He has been an ac­tive Trump sup­porter, tweet­ing and post­ing Facebook videos that ap­pear to show him at the pres­i­dent’s ral­lies.

Sayoc’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts are pep­pered with memes sup­port­ing Trump, and den­i­grat­ing Democrats.

Sayoc lived in a white 2002 Dodge Ram van, which was plas­tered with stick­ers sup­port­ing Trump and crit­i­ciz­ing me­dia out­lets that in­cluded CNN, which was also tar­geted by mail bombs.

The van was of­ten parked out­side an LA Fit­ness in Aven­tura, backed up in a park­ing space un­der the trees for shade. Pa­trons say they fre­quently saw him in the locker room.

“He’d just be walk­ing straight to the shower and be in the shower for­ever,” said Edgar Lopez, who of­ten ex­er­cises at the gym. “I never saw him work­ing out.”

Other times, the van was seen parked at the beach in nearby Hol­ly­wood be­fore dawn, with Sayoc strip­ping down to skin-tight shorts for an out­door shower.

“I’ve seen the guy maybe 80 times and I never said a word to him be­cause I had a feel­ing he was a lit­tle off,” said Marc Weiss, the su­per­in­ten­dent of a build­ing near where Sayoc fre­quently parked. “I as­sumed be­cause he was show­er­ing at the beach that he was home­less.”

In 2015, he re­ported to po­lice that his van was bro­ken into out­side of a gym in Oak­land Park, Florida. He claimed that more than $40,000 worth of items were stolen, in­clud­ing $7,150 worth of Don­ald Trump-brand suits.

But of­ten, Sayoc was on the other side of le­gal com­plaints.

In the 2002 bomb threat case, he had lashed out at a Florida util­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­cause his elec­tric­ity ser­vice was about to be cut off. The ar­rest re­port said Sayoc threat­ened in a phone call to blow up the util­ity’s of­fices and said that “It would be worse than Septem­ber 11th.”

Sayoc was also con­victed in 2014 for grand theft 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 go­ing back to the 1990s for theft, ob­tain­ing fraud­u­lent re­funds and tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence.

Lowy said he re­called that Sayoc also had a run-in with au­thor­i­ties where he was charged with pos­sess­ing a fake driver’s li­cense af­ter al­ter­ing his birth­date to make him ap­pear younger.

Sayoc dis­played no po­lit­i­cal lean­ings at the time of the bomb­ing charge, Lowy said, ex­cept for plas­ter­ing his ve­hi­cle with Na­tive Amer­i­can em­blems. Sayoc told his lawyer his fa­ther was Na­tive Amer­i­can.

More re­cently, Sayoc de­scribed him­self on so­cial me­dia as be­ing af­fil­i­ated with the Semi­nole War­riors box­ing club and be­ing a mem­ber of the “Un­con­quered Semi­nole Tribe.”

Gary Bit­ner, a spokesman for the Semi­nole Tribe of Florida, said there is no ev­i­dence to show that Sayoc worked for the tribe or was a tribal mem­ber.

Altieri, his cousin, said Sayoc’s only con­nec­tion to Na­tive Amer­i­cans was that he once dated a mem­ber of a tribe.

Sayoc was born in New York City. His mother was Ital­ian and his bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther was Filipino, and his par­ents sep­a­rated when he was a young boy, Altieri said. Af­ter his par­ents sep­a­rated, Sayoc was “kind of re­jected” by his fam­ily.

“When you get no love as a young kid, you get kind of out of whack,” he said.

He en­rolled at Bre­vard Col­lege in North Carolina in 1980 and at­tended for three semesters, said Christie Cauble, the school’s in­terim di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. He then trans­ferred to the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Char­lotte, en­rolling for the 1983-84 aca­demic year. Buffie Stephens, di­rec­tor of me­dia re­la­tions for the school, said Sayoc didn’t de­clare a ma­jor. He played a few games as a walk-on player for the univer­sity’s men’s soc­cer team. There is no in­di­ca­tion he ever com­pleted a de­gree.

He moved to the Mi­ami sub­urbs in the late 1980s. He had se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial prob­lems in re­cent years, in­clud­ing los­ing his home in fore­clo­sure in 2009 and fill­ing for Chap­ter 7 bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in 2012.

In court records, Sayoc was de­scribed as hav­ing $4,175 in per­sonal prop­erty and more than $21,000 in debts, mostly from un­paid credit cards. His monthly in­come at the time was $1,070.

“Debtor lives with mother, owns no fur­ni­ture,” Sayoc’s lawyer in­di­cated in a prop­erty list. Sayoc’s mother, Made­line, also filed for bank­ruptcy around the same time. She was not im­me­di­ately avail­able to re­spond to phone mes­sages left with her by the AP.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.