Suspect faces federal charges for sending packages to newsmakers

Oct 26, 2018, 8:08 AM | Updated: 8:47 pm
In this undated photo released by the Broward County Sheriff's office, Cesar Sayoc is seen in a boo...

In this undated photo released by the Broward County Sheriff's office, Cesar Sayoc is seen in a booking photo, in Miami. Federal authorities took Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Fla., into custody Friday, Oct. 26, 2018 in Florida in connection with the mail-bomb scare that earlier widened to 12 suspicious packages, the FBI and Justice Department said. (Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)

(Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)

A suspect faced federal charges for allegedly sending least a dozen suspicious packages to high-profile newsmakers, including Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, and CNN this week.

Authorities identified the suspect as 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc, an Aventura, Florida, resident who reportedly has a lengthy criminal history and ties to New York, where several of the packages were mailed to. He is the only suspect tied to the case.

Sayoc was taken into custody on Friday at a business in Plantation, Florida, a town about seven miles west of Fort Lauderdale.

He faced five federal crimes and could serve up to 58 years in prison. The changes could change or expand based on the investigation, law enforcement officials said.

There was no motive given for the attacks.

The news was initially reported by CNN, which cited multiple law enforcement officials who said a Florida man was arrested.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed that a suspect was in custody.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters during a news conference that investigators identified Sayoc using a fingerprint that was on one of the packages sent to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California. He warned that more packages may be in transit.

“Today’s arrest doesn’t mean we’re all out of the woods,” he said.

News cameras captured images of authorities investigating a white van covered in stickers in Plantation, Florida, shortly after the news was made of a suspect in custody. The van was covered in pro-Trump stickers and what investigators referred to as “right-wing paraphernalia,” according to MSNBC.

It was not immediately known whether the van was connected to the suspect.

“I’ve instructed authorities to take no expense for finding those responsible and bringing them to swift and certain justice,” President Donald Trump said during a news conference on Friday.

“And we will prosecute him, her, who ever it may be to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.

“We must never allow political violence to take root in America.”

According to court and other public records, Sayoc has been convicted on theft, stolen property and traffic charges and in 2002 on a threat to “throw, place, project or discharge any destructive device.”

Sayoc was sentenced in August 2002 for threatening to throw a bomb in a conversation with a Florida utility representative, according to Ronald Lowy, a Miami attorney who represented him. Dade County court records showed Sayoc served a year’s probation after a judge signed a discharge certificate in November 2002.

Lowy told The Associated Press that Sayoc “made a verbal threat when he was frustrated at a lack of service.” Lowy said Sayoc showed no ability at the time to back up his threat with bomb-making expertise.

Court records also show that Sayoc was convicted in the 1990s in Broward County on grand theft and stolen property charges and in 2004 on a felony charge of fraudulent refunds and misdemeanor of tampering with physical evidence.

At least 14 suspicious packages were sent to high-profile newsmakers, including a news network, since late Tuesday. All the intended recipients are Democrats and open critics of Trump.

Former President Barack Obama and two-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were mailed explosive devices disguised as packages on Wednesday.

Neither the Clintons nor the Obamas received the packages, which were intended for delivery to their homes — the Clintons in Chappaqua, New York, and the Obamas in Washington.

A bomb squad removed another device from CNN’s New York headquarters Wednesday, which was evacuated. The package was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was the intended recipient of two packages that were intercepted at Delaware facilities on Thursday. Actor Robert De Niro was also the intended target of a package, but it was found by security at his New York movie production company.

Shortly before authorities announced a man had been arrested, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper were the intended recipients of two more packages found on Friday. A suspicious package that was intended for California Sen. Kamala Harris was intercepted in Sacramento Friday afternoon.

Billionaire Tom Steyer said in a statement on Friday that a suspicious package was intercepted in Burlingame, California, that was addressed to him.

“It’s time for the Republican Party to denounce any attacks on the rights and dignity of any American and begin to work on building the broadest and most comprehensive democracy possible for each and every American,” he said.

Earlier in the week, a pipe bomb was left in the mail box of billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ New York home. Soros has donated extensively to progressive and liberal groups and candidates.

More were sent to frequent Trump critics Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, and former Attorney General Eric Holder. His ended up at the Florida office of Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was listed as the return address. She was listed as the return address on all the packages that have been identified.

Law enforcement officials were looking at a postal facility in Opa-locka, Florida, where they believe some of the packages originated. Opa-locka is about 20 miles from Plantation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Suspect faces federal charges for sending packages to newsmakers