Cesar Sayoc, the man arrested in the nationwide mail-bomb scare targeting prominent Democratic political figures, has a long criminal history and is known on social media for posting inflammatory comments against leading Democrats.
Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Florida, faces five federal crimes, including mailing explosives and threatening former presidents. He faces up to 48 years in prison if found guilty, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
Sayoc was previously known to law enforcement officials and has been arrested nearly a dozen times in Florida, including a 2002 arrest for making a bomb threat. His first arrest in the state was at age 29 for larceny. Other charges against Sayoc — an amateur body builder and former stripper — included grand theft, fraud and illegal possession of steroids.
Social media profiles that apparently belonged to Sayoc contain posts attacking political foes of President Donald Trump. Florida voter records show he first registered to vote in 2016 as a Republican. Video posted on social media appears to show him at Trump rallies.
His online profiles show he engaged in name-calling and promoted online conspiracy theories. On a Twitter account that appeared to be belong to him, he called mass Florida school shooting survivor David Hogg a "fake phony."
Sayoc even retweeted the false claim that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been conceived using Adolph Hitler's frozen sperm.
After FBI agents arrested Sayoc Friday in Plantation, Florida, they hauled away Sayoc's white van. Media reports show images of the van plastered with pro-Trump stickers, American flags, and images of Democratic figures with red crosshairs over their faces.
Sayoc appeared to be living in the van and was seen bathing regularly at a local fitness center or at the beach.
His political awakening appears to have coincided with Trump's run for the presidency. Records show Sayoc has voted early since registering to vote in March 2016.
Documents released by the Broward County, Florida Sheriff's Office show Sayoc reported in May 2015 that more than $40,000 worth of goods were stolen from his fan and an attached trailer, including 11 pieces of Donald Trump-branded clothing valued at more than $7,000. The report shows detectives were not able to confirm whether the theft actually occurred.
A friend and former co-worker of Sayoc's, Justin Humberger, told VOA that "every conversation you ever get into with Cesar, it comes around to politics." He described Sayoc's political leanings as "very pro-Trump," but said he did not display any violent tendencies.
Humberger said he previously worked with Sayoc in a male dancing business over two years ago. He said Sayoc served as a tour manager for himself and two other male dancers and said the group drove hundreds of miles to venues across the country and often slept in Sayoc’s van.
Humberger said Sayoc could not fix his own van so it was not surprising to him that the bombs his former tour manager is suspected of making did not detonate.
“He was a kind of strong personality,” Humberger said, but added he never saw Sayoc be violent. He said in recent months Sayoc wanted to get out of the entertainment industry and hoped to get involved in an industry that wasn’t associated with alcohol.
Sayoc also delivered pizza in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His employer Debra Gureghian said he worked night hours only because of the politically charged images on his van.
When Sayoc discovered Gureghian was a lesbian, he told her he would go to "an island with the blacks, the Jews, the gays, the lesbians, the transgenders, and that he would nuke the island."
Records show Sayoc had a history of financial problems and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. Court records from the bankruptcy filing show Sayoc lived with his mother at the time and owned no furniture.
The lawyer who represented Sayoc in the 2002 bomb threat case, Ronald Lowy, described his former client as "a confused man who had trouble controlling his emotions."
Sayoc told Lowy his father was Native American. More recently, Sayoc described himself on social media as being associated with the Seminole Warriors boxing club and a member of the "Unconquered Seminole Tribe."
Seminole Tribe of Florida spokesman Gart Bitner said there is no evidence he worked for the tribe or was a tribal member.
Sayoc's cousin, Lenny Altieri, who told Associated Press Sayoc "is a lunatic," said Sayoc's only connection to Native Americans was that he once dated a member of a Native American tribe.
Sayoc was born in New York City. Altieri said Sayoc's mother was Italian and his biological father was Filipino. His parents separated when he was a young boy and was subsequently "kind of rejected" by his family, Altieri said.
After attending two colleges in North Carolina in the 1980s without graduating, Sayoc moved to the Miami, Florida suburbs in the late 1980s.
Sayoc is the only person arrested in connection with the mailings of at least a dozen suspicious packages sent to political and media figures, including former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joe Biden and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.