Cesar Sayoc, package bomb suspect, arrested: What we know

PLANTATION, Fla. -- The suspect arrested in connection with mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump has been identified as Cesar Altieri Sayoc.

Federal authorities made the arrest at an auto shop in Florida on Friday in connection with the bomb scare that widened to 14 suspicious packages, the Justice Department said. Speaking early Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump praised authorities for quickly taking Sayoc into custody and said he would be prosecuted to the "fullest extent of the law."   

Sayoc has been charged with five federal crimes, including illegal mailing and interstate transportation of explosives, and threatening a former president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Friday. He will be prosecuted in New York, where five of the devices were found. If convicted, Sayoc faces up to 48 years in prison (the Justice Department originally said 58 years, then corrected it to 48) and may still face additional charges.

Authorities honed in on Sayoc using a latent fingerprint on an envelope containing an IED that was sent to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, as well as DNA evidence from pieces of two different mailed IEDs that was matched to a DNA sample previously collected from Sayoc after an arrest in Florida, according to FBI director Christopher Wray. 

Sessions said Sayoc "appears to be a partisan," but wouldn't comment on a motive, or why the devices targeted Democrats.

Here's what is known about the suspect so far:

  • Sayoc is a 56-year-old south Florida resident who has a criminal history in Broward County, Florida.
  • He was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended college in North Carolina before moving to the Miami suburbs in the late 1980s
  • Records show he pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida in 2002 for threatening to "discharge a destructive device." According to an arrest warrant, Sayoc called a representative at Florida Power and Light, threatened to blow up the building and said it would be "worse than September 11." He also said something would happen to the representative if they cut his electricity.
  • Sayoc registered as a Republican in Florida in 2016, Milton reports. 
  • Sayoc was a prolific poster and tweeter under the name Cesar Alteri Ransazzo. He frequently lashed out at high-profile politicians, actors and businessmen, and he posted videos of himself at Trump rallies
  • Sayoc has an address listed in Miramar, and other addresses listed in Aventura and Fort Lauderdale.
  • Sayoc was 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 possession of a synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroid. He also had several arrests for theft in the 1990s, and pleaded guilty in 1991 to third-degree grand theft.
  • He lost his home in foreclosure in 2009 and filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2012. "Debtor lives with mother, owns no furniture," Sayoc's lawyer indicated in a property list as part of the bankruptcy filing. His name is also listed on business records tied to dry cleaning and catering businesses.
  • An attorney who previously represented him tells CBS News Sayoc "wasn't always in his right mind" and described bizarre behavior.

Attorney Ronald Scott Lowy said he had represented Sayoc in a case in which Sayoc was accused of making a threat that included a false identification card or driver's license. 

Lowy said Sayoc "wanted to look younger," so he had his date of birth altered. Lowy called the behavior bizarre. 

Sayoc always "expressed emotions about the institutions of America" and "felt oppressed by them, but not necessarily in a political way," Lowy said. The lawyer said Sayoc made those statements more than a decade ago. 

Lenny Altieri, Sayoc's cousin, told The Associated Press that Sayoc had been a stripper. He described Sayoc as a "loner."

"I know the guy is a lunatic," Altieri said.

Investigation and arrest in Florida

FBI Director Wray said the massive, multi-jurisdictional investigation spanned from New York to Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and California before leading authorities to Florida. 

Police activity centered earlier Friday on an AutoZone in a residential area of Plantation, Florida, west of Fort Lauderdale, where law enforcement officers were seen on live TV examining a white van in the business' parking lot, its windows covered with an assortment of political stickers.

The stickers included images of Trump, American flags and a variety of other pictures and logos. In a photo posted on Twitter, apparently showing the same van at a stoplight at an earlier date, the stickers can be seen more clearly to include various pro-Trump images, as well as photos of several liberal figures like Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore and CNN commentator Van Jones framed in crosshairs. The stickers criticized media outlets and specifically CNN, the news channel targeted by a mail bomb this week. One sticker said "CNN Sucks," a chant sometimes heard at Trump rallies.

Officials covered the vehicle with a blue tarp and transported it from the lot, trailed by several police cars, CBS News' David Begnaud reported.

Investigators secure a van believed to be linked to the mail bomb suspect in Plantation, Florida. CBS News

Lowy said Sayoc was proud of his heritage, which he described as American Indian.

Witness Tom Fiore, a former law enforcement officer who was across the street from the AutoZone Friday morning, told CBS News he heard a "flash bang" device, saw a cloud of smoke and then a man on the ground for quite awhile surrounded by police officers. He described the man on the ground as a white male, about 50-65 years old, wearing what looked like a black leather vest with long, slick hair.

Fiore described a minimum of 50 officers gathered at the scene.

The development came amid a coast-to-coast manhunt for the person responsible for a series of explosive devices addressed to Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

Law enforcement officials said they had intercepted a dozen packages in states across the country. None had exploded, and it wasn't immediately clear if they were intended to cause physical harm or simply sow fear and anxiety.

Earlier Friday, authorities said suspicious packages addressed to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper -- both similar to those containing pipe bombs sent to other prominent Trump critics -- had been intercepted. Wray said the 13 IEDs contained potential explosive material and were "not hoax devices."

Video of package-bomb suspect at Trump rally

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