For al­leged bomber, truth bend­able

Re­al­ity of Sayoc’s past un­clear amid boast af­ter boast that prove false

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Marco della Cava, El­iz­a­beth Weise and Brett Mur­phy

Ce­sar Sayoc’s life seems to have been de­fined by boast­ful ex­ag­ger­a­tion and false bravado – with one big ex­cep­tion.

Sayoc, 56, now stands ac­cused of do­ing some­thing very real: mail­ing pipe bombs to more than a dozen po­lit­i­cal fig­ures, in­clud­ing former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and former Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, who have been crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

But up un­til his ar­rest Fri­day out­side an auto parts store in Plan­ta­tion, Florida, Sayoc would have been a man dif­fi­cult to pin down.

While his sticker-strewn white van and fre­quent so­cial me­dia posts pro­claimed a fierce al­le­giance to Trump and a dis­dain for the pres­i­dent’s crit­ics, Sayoc’s per­sonal life was an­chored to his jobs work­ing at strip clubs and a slew of fi­nan­cial trou­bles that re­sulted in his liv­ing in his ve­hi­cle.

It was dur­ing a 2014 de­po­si­tion in a law­suit filed by a DJ at Stir Crazy Show­girls, an adult en­ter­tain­ment club and restau­rant in Pinecrest, Florida, over back pay that Sayoc’s pen­chant for ex­ag­ger­a­tion shined.

Sayoc, who was there to dis­cuss the pay­ment struc­ture at the club, said his mother was mayor of Aven­tura, Florida. How­ever, Enid Weis­man, the cur­rent mayor of the sub­urb in Mi­ami-Dade County, con­firmed his mother was never the mayor of the town.

Sayoc said, “I have had road shows, Chip­pen­dales, we are the world fa­mous, num­ber one Chip­pen­dales,” a ref­er­ence to per­haps man­ag­ing a troupe of male strip­pers. But Chip­pen­dales spokesman Michael Caprio said Fri­day that Sayoc “has never been af­fil­i­ated in any way with Chip­pen­dales.”

Later, the lawyer asked: “Tell me about how you made $13 mil­lion for a club?”

Sayoc blus­tered: “When you do $8,000 from your own room and then all your se­cu­rity guys that run the lap dances, the $5 per dance, we did 13 mil­lion in lap dances ... that’s how.”

Sayoc’s self-ag­gran­diz­ing de­scrip­tions mostly hewed to­ward an ef­fort to make him out to be some­one he was not.

While Sayoc did play soc­cer in high school and in col­lege at the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Char­lotte, his claim that he played for Euro­pean pow­er­house A.C. Mi­lan could not be con­firmed.

He also said he had worked as a loss preven­tion spe­cial­ist at the Semi­nole Hard Rock Casino in Hol­ly­wood, Florida, two days a week. Own­ers of the casino said in a state­ment that he had never worked there.

De­scrib­ing him­self on his LinkedIn page as a “pro­moter, book­ing agent Live en­ter­tain­ment, owner, chore­og­ra­pher,” Sayoc told lawyers at the de­po­si­tion that he was “the best at this busi­ness. … There’s no­body bet­ter.”

But he lost his house through fore­clo­sure dur­ing the hous­ing cri­sis a decade ago and ended up liv­ing in his van. He filed for per­sonal bank­ruptcy in 2012 and col­lected un­em­ploy­ment in 2009, 2010 and 2012, ac­cord­ing to the bank­ruptcy fil­ing.

Many of Sayoc’s so­cial me­dia posts sug­gested he was a Semi­nole In­dian, work­ing for a spell at the Semi­nole owned casino in South Florida and even reg­is­ter­ing a busi­ness as Na­tive Amer­i­can Cater­ing & Vend­ing.

In a state­ment Fri­day that sug­gested even Sayoc’s name was a mys­tery, Gary Bit­ner of the Semi­nole Tribe of Florida said he found “no ev­i­dence that Ce­sar Altieri, Cae­sar Altieri, Cae­sar Altieri Sayoc, Ceasar Altieri Ran­dazzo (Face­book) or Ju­lus Ce­sar Mi­lan (Twit­ter) is or was a mem­ber or em­ployee” of the tribe.

But for all the fog swirling around Sayoc’s life, his po­lit­i­cal be­liefs were crys­tal clear.

Although Face­book and later Twit­ter dis­abled Sayoc’s ac­counts Fri­day af­ter­noon, his ac­tiv­ity on the so­cial me­dia sites showed a man who was pas­sion­ate about Trump’s pres­i­dency – he posted many pho­tos and videos from Trump rallies, the fre­quent body­builder of­ten flex­ing his im­pos­ing bi­ceps – and threat­en­ing any Trump de­trac­tors. Off­line, he cov­ered his van in im­ages of Trump and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, among other im­ages, in­clud­ing a sign that read, “CNN SUCKS.”

Two weeks be­fore Sayoc is sus­pected of mail­ing his 14 pipe bombs, po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Rochelle Ritchie says she com­plained to Twit­ter about threats he made against her, in­clud­ing men­ac­ing mes­sages and dis­turb­ing im­ages such as al­li­ga­tors and hu­man body parts, af­ter one of her ap­pear­ances on Fox News.

One of the tweets from his ac­count, which Twit­ter took down Fri­day, read: “We will see you 4 sure. Hug your loved ones real close ev­ery time you leave you home.”

Sayoc also is linked to Twit­ter ac­counts vil­i­fy­ing Democrats, par­tic­u­larly lib­eral donor Ge­orge Soros, who re­ceived one of the pipe bomb pack­ages, and Florida’s Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee, An­drew Gil­lum.

Re­cent ac­tiv­ity in what ap­pears to be two so­cial me­dia ac­counts be­long­ing to Sayoc paint a pic­ture of a staunch sup­porter of both Trump and Ron DeSan­tis, the GOP nom­i­nee for gov­er­nor who the pres­i­dent has en­dorsed, as well as Florida Repub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott.

Other posts crit­i­cize the Clin­tons and ac­cuse David Hogg, a sur­vivor of the Park­land, Florida, high school shoot­ing this year, of work­ing with Soros.

Scott Meigs, 52, of West Palm Beach, said he worked along­side Sayoc for two decades at strip clubs all over South Florida and said his col­league had never ut­tered a word about pol­i­tics – un­til about a month ago.

That’s when Meigs said Sayoc be­gan pep­per­ing him with text mes­sages about how Repub­li­cans needed to win the midterm elec­tions, the Florida gov­er­nor’s race and Florida’s Se­nate race.

“He started talk­ing pol­i­tics non­stop,” Meigs said.

Sayoc was born in Brook­lyn, New York, in 1963. His fa­ther, Ceasar Sayoc, was born in 1932 and im­mi­grated from the Philip­pines. In 1956, he ap­plied to be­come a U.S. cit­i­zen, when he was liv­ing in Seat­tle, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments found on An­ces­try.com. Sayoc’s mother, Made­line Altieri, was from New York.

Well be­fore fed­eral au­thor­i­ties charged Sayoc with five fed­eral crimes over the bombs, he had his share of runins with po­lice.

In 2002, Sayoc was charged with threat­en­ing to “throw, project, place, or dis­charge any de­struc­tive de­vice,” ac­cord­ing to on­line court records from Mi­ami-Dade County.

Sayoc told lawyers in the 2014 de­po­si­tion that he was ar­rested for call­ing in a bomb threat over un­paid de­posits from the dry clean­ers he claimed to have owned. “Then the bomb squad showed up to my store and I’m like, ‘Are you kid­ding me, you know,’ ” he said.

Ce­sar Sayoc

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