News People Serial pipe bomb suspect a ‘loner’ with long record

Serial pipe bomb suspect a ‘loner’ with long record

Cesar Altieri Sayoc in August 2015. Photo: EPA/Broward Sheriff's Office
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In the hours after serial pipe bomb suspect Cesar Altieri Sayoc was arrested by the FBI in Florida, a grim picture has begun to emerge of a man described as a “loner” who had worked as a stripper and lived in a van parked in a shopping centre for several years.

Mr Sayoc, 56, has been charged with mailing at least 13 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), packaged in tan-coloured manila envelopes, to prominent Democratic political figures including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, to the offices of CNN and to billionaire George Soros.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray cautioned that the arrest did not necessarily end the threat: “There may be other packages in transit now and other packages on the way”.

One federal law enforcement source told Reuters authorities were investigating whether other individuals were involved and did not rule out more arrests.

After an intense four days searching for Mr Sayoc, the investigation led the FBI to Florida after a fingerprint was allegedly found on one of the envelopes and a “possible DNA association” was collected inside a piece of the IED in two of the envelopes.

As news broke that FBI offices arrested Mr Sayoc about 11am in a Plantation shopping centre carpark, Mr Trump thanked the “FBI, Secret Service, Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York, the NYPD, and all Law Enforcement partners across the Country for their incredible work, skill and determination”.

He said it was like finding a “needle in a haystack”.

CNN reported Mr Sayoc allegedly told investigators he didn’t want to hurt anyone and the pipe bombs wouldn’t have injured anyone.

Reports quickly emerged of a man who had been an amateur body builder and a male stripper who had become allegedly obsessed with politics after the rise of Mr Trump in 2016.

According to court records online, Mr Sayoc had endured almost a decade of financial hardship, losing his home in 2009 and filing for bankruptcy in 2012, and an extensive record of past arrests including a stint served on probation for making a bomb threat.

Florida voter records show he first registered in March 2016 as a Republican and cast a ballot in that November’s heated presidential election. Photos have emerged on Facebook of Mr Sayoc wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat and joining in pro-Trump rallies.

Mr Sayoc’s social media accounts were filled with memes supporting Mr Trump, denigrating Democrats, and promoting conspiracy theories about Mr Soros, the political donor first targeted this week by a package bomb.

According to the New York Times, Mr Sayoc frequently posted in Facebook groups including The Trump American Party and Vote Trump 2020 using the account name – since suspended – of Cesar Altieri Randazzo.

Federal prosecutors say a Twitter account allegedly used by Mr Sayoc referenced Mr Soros, CNN and Joe Biden, one post even including an aerial photo of what appeared to be Mr Biden’s house, according to the paper.

Local hairdresser Manuel Prado, 56, told the paper he saw Mr Sayoc frequently use a local gym near the shopping centre: “He would pretend to exercise. I think he just went there to take showers. I say hello to everyone and he would never acknowledge anyone”.

Authorities swoop on a white van covered in pro-Republican stickers in relation to a bomb scare in the United States. Photo: AAP

Born in New York City, he moved to the Miami suburbs in the late 1980s after attending college in North Carolina.

Lenny Altieri told The Associated Press on Friday his cousin “has been a loner” and confirmed that he had worked as a stripper.

“I know the guy is a lunatic … he has been a loner.”

The court records show Mr Sayoc was arrested in 2002 and served a year of probation for threatening to throw or place a bomb.

The records did not immediately provide further details about the case, but his lawyer in the case told The Associated Press it involved a heated conversation with a Florida utility representative.

Miami lawyer Ronald Lowy described Mr Sayoc as “a confused man who had trouble controlling his emotions”.

Lowy said Mr Sayoc displayed no political leanings at the time except for plastering a vehicle he owned with Native American signs, adding Mr Sayoc told him his father was Native American.

Mr Sayoc was also convicted in 2014 for grand theft and misdemeanor 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 for theft in the 1990s and faced a felony charge for obtaining fraudulent refunds and a misdemeanor count of tampering with physical evidence.

Read the full list of current charges Sayoc faces filed in the US District Court in New York on Friday:

“His mind doesn’t seem to operate like most peoples’,” Mr Lowy said.

“It shows in his anger, his emotion and his behaviour.”

In June, he praised Mr Trump in a birthday message: “Happy Birthday President Donald J. Trump the greatest result President ever.”

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Mr Sayoc has been charged with five federal crimes, and faces up to 48 years in prison.

-with agencies