AVENTURA, Fla. — Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., a South Florida man charged in connection with a string of bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, appeared to have a lively social media presence, where he frequently posted in right-wing circles and shared conservative news stories and condemnations of liberal politicians.
Mr. Sayoc, 56, appeared to post frequently in Facebook groups like “The Trump American Party” and “Vote Trump 2020” using an account with the name “Cesar Altieri Randazzo.” The account, which was suspended on Friday after reports that Mr. Sayoc was a suspect in the bombing case, shared photos of Mr. Sayoc attending political events and working out at the gym.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the account shared news stories from Breitbart, video clips from Fox News, and posts from pages like “Handcuffs for Hillary.” That year, the account included numerous photos and videos of Mr. Sayoc, a registered Republican, at a Trump campaign rally, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
“We have found and immediately removed the suspect’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram,” Facebook said in a statement. “We will also continue to remove content that praises or supports the bombing attempt or the suspect as soon as we’re aware.”
A Twitter account that federal prosecutors say is Mr. Sayoc’s had frequently posted attacks on immigrants, gun-control advocates and prominent Democrats. In one tweet posted several weeks ago, the account posted a photo of Mr. Sayoc holding a “CNN Sucks” sign.
Another message sent last month included a threat to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., along with an aerial photo of what appeared to be Mr. Biden’s house. And on Wednesday, after the federal authorities had recovered a package that had been mailed to the billionaire George Soros, it included a post that was critical of Mr. Soros and former President Barack Obama.
Here is what is known about the suspect:
• Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Mr. Sayoc had been charged with five federal crimes, and faces up to 48 years in prison if convicted.
• Mr. Sayoc has a lengthy criminal history in Florida dating back to 1991 that includes felony theft, drug and fraud charges, as well as being accused of threatening to use a bomb, public records show. In the bombing case, Mr. Sayoc was accused of threatening to “blow up” a Florida utility company and a customer service representative who he had called to protest a bill. The records listed Mr. Sayoc’s occupation as “manager.”
• According to a 2012 bankruptcy petition filed in Miami, Mr. Sayoc resided at the time at his mother’s home. “Lives w/mom,” a handwritten note on the petition said. “Has no furniture.”
• The suspect was arrested at about 11 a.m. in the parking lot of a shopping center in Plantation, Fla., west of Fort Lauderdale. A white van that was covered in stickers was towed away from the scene in the late morning. According to a hairdresser who works at the shopping center, it appeared that Mr. Sayoc had been living inside the van for a while.
• Mr. Sayoc once worked as a manager for traveling “male revue shows,” according to the wife of one of Mr. Sayoc’s business partners.
A relative recalls an obsession with body building
Lenny Altieri, a retired chef in Hallandale, Fla., whose cousin, Madeleine Altieri, is Mr. Sayoc’s mother, said that Mr. Sayoc had been obsessed with body building and had worked at one point as a male stripper in South Florida nightclubs.
“That lifestyle’s all glitter,” said Mr. Altieri, explaining that the last time he saw Mr. Sayoc was at a family gathering about six years ago. Mr. Altieri said he wasn’t aware of Mr. Sayoc’s political thinking at the time.
“That must have happened after Trump came along,” Mr. Altieri said. “Cesar was a cool cat at one point.”
Mr. Altieri said that Mr. Sayoc’s grandparents raised him after Mr. Sayoc had problems with his mother. Mr. Sayoc’s father was from the Philippines and his mother was from Brooklyn, Mr. Altieri said.
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Mr. Altieri added that Mr. Sayoc had “a lot of money but lost most of it.” Mr. Altieri said Mr. Sayoc “wasn’t the most stable guy in the world.”
“At least no one got hurt from this business,” he said.
‘That van was his home.’
Manuel Prado, a 56-year-old hairdresser in a salon in the Shoppes at the Waterways in Aventura, said he had seen Mr. Sayoc for the last several years living in his white van, festooned with stickers, in the shopping center’s parking lot.
“I knew right away it was him when I saw the pictures of the van today in the news,” Mr. Prado said Friday afternoon as he prepared to cut a customer’s hair. “That van was his home. It was really smelly when he had the door open and you walked by. It was horrible. He might drive off and run an errand or something, but every morning that van was there in the parking lot.”
Mr. Prado, a hairdresser for 17 years, said he also saw Mr. Sayoc frequently at LA Fitness, a large gym immediately west of the shopping mall. “He would pretend to exercise — I think he just went there to take showers,” Mr. Prado said. “He’d sometimes use a bicycle in the gym. I assume he was a member because they’re very strict about that.”
Asked whether he had ever spoken with Mr. Sayoc, he said, “He was very antisocial. He was a loner. I say hello to everyone here and he would never acknowledge anyone.”
Mr. Prado and other employees at the shopping center said it was not unusual for people to live in their cars in the parking lot. About three months ago, he said, another homeless man was found dead in his car there.
When shown a picture of Mr. Sayoc on a news website, Mr. Prado said he would recognize him anywhere. “He had this weird hairline — I’m a hairdresser and I look at people’s hair,” he said,
At LA Fitness, an employee referred all questions about Mr. Sayoc to corporate officials.
A connection to a ‘male revue’ show
Rachel Humberger, the wife of one of Mr. Sayoc’s business partners, said Mr. Sayoc used to be a manager for traveling “male revue shows.”
“It was a traveling show, but I don’t know what his role was, whether he booked the gigs or what,” Ms. Humberger said.
Ms. Humberger described the shows as being in the style of “Magic Mike,” a reference to a 2012 movie about male strippers.
More recently, she said Mr. Sayoc had been talking to her husband about starting a new business: Fish farms.
“Cesar had opened a bank account” for the new business, she said. “But that’s as far as it got.”
Ms. Humberger also said that she found Mr. Sayoc to be friendly, based on the short interactions she had with him. “He was always sweet and a nice guy in general,” she said.
Ms. Humberger said she never talked politics with Mr. Sayoc, but had been told he played college soccer.
A Florida resident described seeing a van that appeared similar to the one towed away
The suspect’s white van reminded David Cypkin and his girlfriend, who until recently lived in Aventura, Fla., of a van often parked in the parking lot of a local strip mall, the Shoppes at the Waterways. Mr. Cypkin shared photographs with The New York Times that showed a van covered with a number of stickers bearing the image of President Trump and at least one anti-CNN sticker.
Mr. Cypkin, 39, said he lived near the mall and would see the van in the early morning when he walked his dog.
“It struck me because of the crazy conspiratorial stickers covering the windows,” said Mr. Cypkin, a documentary film producer and editor. “It was unsettling, and also it seemed to be occupied. Sometimes the door would be ajar or a window would be open, which indicated to me that maybe somebody was living in the van.”
“I never wanted to get too close,” he added, though he saw the owner at least once. He described him as an older white man.
Mr. Cypkin shared a cellphone picture he took of the van in the early morning of Dec. 31. The photo shows a van similar to the one seen in footage being picked up by law enforcement this morning. He said he called the F.B.I. after learning of the arrest.
On Friday, his girlfriend saw the van on the TV news and sent him a screen shot: “Is this the van from the Waterways?”
[H/T The New York Times]