How FBI caught former stripper in mail-bomb plot

Cesar Sayoc's fingerprint left on pipe bomb sent to lawmaker, FBI agents say


AVENTURA, Fla. – Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr. showed up in his van plastered with political stickers to work as a disc jockey on Thursday night at the Ultra Gentlemen's Club near the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

The 56-year-old former stripper had started working there as a bouncer after porn star Stormy Daniels performed there in April. Stacey Saccal, the club's manager, said Sayoc didn't seem afraid to show his political leanings. 

"He even sent me a few text messages about voting for (Florida's Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron) DeSantis," a co-worker at the club said. 

Federal authorities and Miami-Dade Police Department officers tracked five of the packages to the United States Postal Service mail processing center in Opa-locka, including one found at the center that was addressed to Sen. Cory Booker. Hours later, agents arrested Sayoc on Friday. 

The devices stashed in manila envelopes and mailed nationwide targeted top Democrats two weeks before the midterm elections.
The devices stashed in manila envelopes and mailed nationwide targeted top Democrats two weeks before the midterm elections.

Sayoc sent at least 13 pipe bombs to opponents of President Donald Trump, authorities said. Among the plot's targets authorities confirmed  were Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama on Oct. 23,  CNN on Oct. 24, and former Vice President Joe Biden on Oct. 25. 

According to FBI Special Agent David Brown, FBI forensics investigators at Quantico, Virginia, found his DNA and a fingerprint on the received at Rep. Maxine Waters' office on Oct. 24. 



His typos on Twitter were also consistent with the typos on the packages, according to Brown. 

"Hilary" rather than "Hillary."

"Shultz" rather than "Schultz."

When George  Soros received the package on Oct. 22, Sayoc re-tweeted a post. 

"The world is waking up to the horrors of George Soros."

Rochelle Ritchie, a political commentator, reported Sayoc after she receiving a threat from him on Twitter. She had appeared on Fox News. Twitter apologized. 

"We made a mistake when Rochelle Ritchie first alerted us to the threat made against her," Twitter Safety tweeted. "The Tweet clearly violated our rules and should have been removed. We are deeply sorry for that error."



With the help of his phone's geo-location data, federal agents tracked Sayoc to an AutoZone store parking lot on Friday morning in Plantation.

Thomas Fiori, a former federal law enforcement officer, said he saw an undercover police officer looking at the store with binoculars. Paul Smith said he saw agents quickly surround Sayoc's peculiar 2002 Dodge Ram van.


When the agents caught Sayoc, Fiori said he "had that look of, 'I am done, I surrender.'"



The avid weightlifter, who had been arrested for possession of a synthetic anabolic steroid in 2004, appeared to have been living in the white van and using his LA Fitness membership to use the locker room.

Edgar Lopez, an LA Fitness member at Aventura, said he had seen him walk into the gym just to take showers. Marc Weiss, another gym member, had also noticed Sayoc. 

"This guy had an air about him that was unsettling," Weiss said. 

Frank Ruggier said he saw him at the LA Fitness in Fort Lauderdale. 

"He was pretty crazy in the gym too, not in a good way," Ruggier said. 

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents learned it wasn't the first time he had contemplated using a bomb. He had been accused of issuing a bomb threat against Florida Power & Light in 2002. 

Ronald Lowy, a Miami attorney, said Sayoc showed no ability at the time to back up his threat with any bomb-making expertise. He described Sayoc as "a confused man who had trouble controlling his emotions," and also said he lied about being a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. 

Sayoc was born in New York and is a former North Miami Beach High School student and soccer player. Lowy said he was of Filipino and Italian descent, and since his father had abandoned him, it was possible that he probably found a father figure in Trump. 


Other co-workers also remember his obsession for defending Trump. His former co-worker Luigi Mari said they were not surprised when Sayoc was on the news accused of mailing the packages. 

"He would say, 'It's time to put them down.' You know, 'This is what she needs.' Talking about Hillary Clinton. 'Oh, this is what she needs.'" said Mari, who worked with him at the Papa John's Pizza in Hollywood. "Who does things like this?"

Sayoc also worked at New River Grill and Pizza in Fort Lauderdale. Debra Gureghian, the restaurant's manager, said he was reliable, and was also anti gay, anti black and anti Jewish. She said his van was "freaky scary."

"Everybody that wasn’t white and wasn’t a white supremacist didn’t belong in the world," Gureghian said "That’s what he used to say to me all the time."

Federal prosecutors charged Sayoc with illegal mailing of explosives, interstate transportation of an explosive, threatening interstate communications, threats against former presidents and assaulting federal agents. 

Sayoc was at a federal detention center in Miami and was set to appear in federal court on Monday and will formally face his charges in New York. If he is convicted, Sayoc faces up to 48 years in prison. 


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