The Florida man in custody in connection with the package bombs sent to Democratic political figures is a fervent supporter of President Donald Trump with an extensive record of past arrests, including a stint served on probation for making a bomb threat.
Cesar 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.
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.
At the auto parts store in Plantation, Florida, where Sayoc was taken into custody, authorities towed away a white van covered with stickers supporting Trump and criticizing media outlets that included CNN, the news channel also targeted by a mail bomb this week.
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 told The Associated Press the case involved a heated conversation with a Florida utility representative.
Ronald Lowy, a Miami attorney, 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 misdemeanor theft of less than $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 misdemeanor count of tampering with physical evidence.
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 driver’s license after altering his birthdate to make him appear younger.
“His mind doesn’t seem to operate like most peoples’,” Lowy said. “It shows in his anger, his emotion and his behavior.”
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 $4,175 in personal property and more than $21,000 in debts. His monthly income at the time was $1,070.
“Debtor lives with mother, owns no furniture,” Sayoc’s lawyer indicated in a property list. He owned a 2001 Chevy Tahoe with 285,000 miles on the odometer. Most of his debt was from unpaid credit cards opened up in South Florida and banks across the U.S.
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 was not immediately available to respond to phone messages left with her by the AP.
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 Gov. 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.”
Associated Press reporter Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this story.
Follow AP investigative reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck