OPA-LOCKA, Fla. — A man has been arrested in Florida in connection to the more than a dozen suspected explosive devices addressed to critics of President Donald Trump, federal officials confirmed Thursday.
Law enforcement is now identifying the man as Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Aventura, Florida.
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The Aventura, Florida Police Dept. said the FBI investigated a home linked to Sayoc Friday afternoon.
Police said the home belonged to a family member, possibly Sayoc's mother, and he did not live there. The FBI said there was nothing in the residence that would be dangerous to people living nearby.
Family members and law enforcement confirmed Sayoc actually lived in the white van that police seized Friday morning.
A cousin, Lenny Altieri, said Sayoc is of Italian and Filipino descent, denying claims on Sayoc's social media accounts that he was affiliated with the Seminole Tribe.
"I know the guy is a lunatic," Altieri told the Associated Press.
Some more details about Sayoc from court records:
- Sayoc was convicted of grand theft and misdemeanor theft
- He was arrested in 2002 on a felony charge of threatening to throw or place a bomb, during an argument with an FPL representative
Florida property records show he lost his home in 2009 and may have been a victim of IndyMac/OneWest's robo-signing scandal, where the banks allegedly signed off on thousands of documents without checking for accuracy, causing people to lose their homes without proper procedures.
Court records show Sayoc filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2012.
From Spectrum News reporter Greg Angel in Aventura:
Social media accounts for Cesar Sayoc claimed he worked for Seminole Hard Rock in marketing and events, and championed the Seminole Tribe.
But a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe released a statement disavowing Sayoc:
"We can find 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 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."
The Justice Dept. made the 11-page criminal complaint document against Sayoc available to the public. We have it available for you to read (.pdf).
Sayoc is facing 5 federal charges, worth up to 58 years in prison, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Asked why Sayoc was reportedly targeting democrats, Sessions responded, "I don't know. He appears to be a partisan."
FBI Director Christopher Wray said they can confirm 13 devices were mailed and are in the hands of federal investigators.
"We can confirm that 13 IEDs were sent to various individuals," Wray said. "Each device consisted of roughly 6 inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, some wiring" & "energetic material" that is potentially explosive."
"These are not hoax devices," added Wray.
Wray also said a latent fingerprint on a package sent to Rep. Maxine Waters helped lead investigators to Sayoc.
Investigators also believe more devices may still be in transit, and they need people to remain vigilant and report any information to authorities.
In a joint law enforcement news conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that Cesar Sayoc will face five federal crimes:
- Interstate transportation of an explosive
- Illegal mailing of explosives
- Threats against a former president and other people
- Making threatening interstate communications
- Assaulting current or former officers
Sessions says that "political violence, or the threat of violence, is antithetical to our vigorous system of self-government. ...
"We will not tolerate lawlessness."
Sayoc's crimes add up to a possible 58 years in prison.
Law enforcement confirms they are investigating a package sent to Sen. Kamala Harris's Sacramento, California office.
Law enforcement also told CNN that they are investigating a package meant for liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. It was intercepted in Burlingame, California.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott released a statement on Twitter regarding the investigation:
We also received a statement from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum regarding the investigation. Social media accounts connected to the suspect, Cesar Sayoc Jr., show the user constantly posted anti-Gillum pictures and statements. Gillum is responding to question about that:
"Our top priority is ensuring our campaign, our volunteers, and our public events are safe, and we have taken strong security precautions. We have no evidence that any of our offices have been targeted, but we are in close contact with the authorities as this situation develops.
"It is fortunate that the evil intent of the bomber has not been realized. I call on all political leaders to cease the dangerous rhetoric of hatred and division that is poisoning our society. I believe that what is decent and what is right in our society will triumph and that hate will never win. Together, we must fight fiercely for a more decent and a more respectful state for all of us."
Gillum's opponent, Republican candidate Ron DeSantis, also released a statement on Twitter:
Law enforcement officials say DNA on at least one package, and Cesar Sayoc's own cell phone led them to the suspect.
CNN reports officials used Sayoc's cell phone to track him, with discovering that several packages went through the mail processing and distribution center in Opa-locka, Florida being an important breakthrough for them.
CNN is also reporting that Sayoc was previously known to the Secret Service.
The political campaigns in Florida have been largely mum about the pipe bomb case. Sen. Bill Nelson spoke out about it at a campaign event today: Sen. Nelson regarding pipe bombs arrest, according to Spectrum News reporter Dalia Dangerfield:
From Spectrum News reporter Greg Angel, who is heading to South Florida to cover the latest on Sayoc's arrest:
President Trump congratulated law enforcement for the quick arrest of Cesar Sayoc Jr. and reiterated his statement from earlier this week that Americans must come together.
"We must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens."
Law enforcement is now identifying the man as Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Aventura, Florida.
Records show he has a lengthy criminal history.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice confirms a man was arrested in Plantation, Florida, in conjunction with the pipe bomb case. Officials say the man is in his 50s.
Law enforcement officials were seen putting a blue tarp over a white van with several stickers on it in the Plantation area this morning.
A news conference will be held at 2:30 p.m.
President Trump tweeted that he will address the latest in the bomb investigation around noon.
The number of suspicious mail packages intercepted that investigators say contained crude bombs increased to a dozen after two more were found Friday.
Law enforcement recovered an 11th package in Florida addressed to Sen. Cory Booker. The 12th package was found at a NYC post office; it was addressed to former intelligence director James Clapper.
The packages, all found this week, contained crude explosive devices, the FBI has said, and have been sent to vocal critics of President Donald Trump.
Other packages recovered this week targeted former President Barack Obama, former CIA Director John Brennan, Rep. Maxine Waters and billionaire philanthropist George Soros, among others.
AP has reported a 12th package was found at a NYC post office addressed to former intelligence director James Clapper.
Clapper told CNN on Friday morning that the devices sent to prominent critics of Trump were "definitely domestic terrorism."
An 11th suspicious package was recovered in Florida, the FBI said. It was similar to the other crude bomb devices recovered this week in the mail, addressed to Democratic politicians or critics of President Donald Trump. The suspicious package was addressed to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, whose name has been floated as a possible 2020 presidential candidate.
President Donald Trump took to social media in the middle of the night, reiterating his distrust at the media.
In a tweet posted just before 3:30 a.m. EDT, he said he thinks groups like CNN are blaming him for the bombs being sent.
The president also claimed comparisons to 9/11 and and the Oklahoma City bombing are circulating. He also claimed a double-standard when it comes to criticism, saying when he criticizes the media, they "go wild and scream it's just not presidential."
As for the reference to the Oklahoma City bombing, some have compared the bomb plot to what's been termed "homegrown terrorism," though authorities have not released any details on who may have mailed the crude bomb devices or why.
The focus is now on Florida, with law enforcement officials now confirming at least some of the packages originated there. Authorities think several of the packages went through processing and distribution at a center in Opa-Locka, Florida, near Miami.
Miami-Dade Police tweeted Thursday night: "Our Bomb Squad & K-9 Unit are currently providing assistance to our federal partners at the USPS Opa-Locka mail facility as part of the ongoing investigation into suspicious packages located in other jurisdictions."
The distribution center handles mail incoming and outgoing from South Florida.
Three more devices were linked to the plot Thursday — two addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden and one to actor Robert De Niro — bringing the total to 10 in an outbreak of politically loaded menace with little, if any, precedent.
All 10 similar-looking packages had the same return address: South Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
And although initially it was thought that some of the packages were hand-delivered, investigators tell The New York Times that it's now thought that all 10 crude bomb devices were sent through the mail.
Authorities warned there might well be more.
On Thursday night, The New York Police Department said a report of two unattended packages at the Time Warner Center was a false alarm. The NYPD had said it had evaluated the packages "as a precaution."
The packages have been addressed to people such as former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the CNN offices in New York City and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. The common thread among them was obvious: critical words for Trump and frequent, harsher criticism in return.
Details suggested a pattern: that the items were packaged in Manila envelopes, addressed to prominent Trump critics and carried U.S. postage stamps. The devices were being examined by technicians at the FBI’s forensic lab in Quantico, Virginia.
Besides looking at the packages, law enforcement will also be looking at the devices themselves for any clues as to where the materials were purchased. They hope that will help narrow down their search for a suspect.
The FBI tweeted Friday that it's asking for the public's help for clues.
Agents are encouraging people to call 1-800-CALL-FBI with tips.