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For accused pipe bomber Cesar Sayoc, life was a stage where the truth was a bit player

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For accused pipe bomber Cesar Sayoc, life was a stage where the truth was a bit player

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People who know Cesar Sayoc said they were shocked he’s suspected of mailing at least 14 explosive packages through the mail, targeting Democrats. Some describe the man as a church-goer, others as someone who worked with strip clubs.
USA TODAY

Cesar Sayoc’s life seems to have been defined by boastful exaggeration and false bravado. With one notable exception.

Sayoc, 56, now stands accused of doing something very real: Mailing pipe bombs to more than a dozen political figures, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who have been critical of President Donald Trump.

But up until his arrest Friday outside an auto parts store in Plantation, Florida, Sayoc would have been a man difficult to pin down.

While his sticker-strewn white van and frequent social media posts proclaimed a fierce allegiance to Trump and a disdain for the president’s critics, Sayoc’s personal life was anchored to his jobs working at strip clubs, and a slew of financial troubles that resulted in him living in his vehicle.

It was during a 2014 deposition in a lawsuit filed by a DJ at Stir Crazy Showgirls, an adult entertainment club and restaurant in Pinecrest, Florida, over back pay that Sayoc’s penchant for exaggeration shined.

Sayoc, who was there to discuss the payment structure at the club, said his mother was mayor of Aventura, Florida. However Enid Weisman, the current mayor of the suburb in Miami-Dade county, confirmed to USA TODAY that Giardiello was never the mayor of the town.

Sayoc said, “I have had road shows, Chippendales, we are the world famous, number one Chippendales,” a reference to perhaps managing a troupe of male strippers. But Chippendales spokesman Michael Caprio Friday said Sayoc, “has never been affiliated in any way with Chippendales.”

When asked about his education, Sayoc’s response baffled the attorneys, who stammered: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Business, finance and veterinary medicine?” “Yeah,” said Sayoc, “it’s going to be a biology degree that will get me into the vet school.”

Later, the lawyer asked: “Tell me about how you made $13 million for a club?”

Sayoc blustered: “When you do $8,000 from your own room and then all your security guys that run the lap dances, the $5 per dance, we did 13 million in lap dances … that’s how.”

Sayoc’s self-aggrandizing descriptions mostly hued toward an effort to make him out to be someone he was not.

While Sayoc did play soccer in high school and in college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, his claim that he played for European powerhouse A.C. Milan could not be confirmed.

He also said he had worked as a loss prevention specialist at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida, two days a week. Owners of the casino said in a statement that he had never worked there.

Describing himself on his LinkedIn page as a “promoter, booking agent Live entertainment, owner, choreographer,” Sayoc told lawyers at the deposition that he was “the best at this business. … There’s nobody better.”

But he lost his house through foreclosure during the housing crisis a decade ago and ended up living in his van.  He filed for personal bankruptcy in 2012, and collected unemployment in 2009, 2010 and 2012, according to the bankruptcy filing.

Many of Sayoc’s social media posts suggested he was a Seminole Indian, working for a spell at the Seminole-owned casino in South Florida and even registering a business as Native American Catering & Bending, based out of Hallandale Beach, Florida.

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According to court and other public records, Cesar Alteri Sayoc Jr., 56, 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.” (Oct. 26)
AP

In a statement Friday that suggested even Sayoc’s name was a mystery, Gary Bitner of the Seminole Tribe of Florida said he found “no evidence that Cesar Altieri, Caesar Altieri, Caesar Altieri Sayoc, Ceasar Altieri Randazzo (Facebook) or Julus Cesar Milan (Twitter) is or was a member or employee” of the tribe.

‘Politics non-stop’

But for all the fog swirling around Sayoc’s life, his political beliefs were crystal clear.

Although Facebook and later Twitter disabled Sayoc’s accounts Friday afternoon, his activity on the social media sites showed a man who was passionate about Trump’s presidency — he posted many photos and videos from Trump rallies, the frequent body builder often flexing his imposing biceps — and threatening any Trump detractors. Offline, he covered his van in images of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, among other images, including a sign that read, “CNN SUCKS.” 

Two weeks before Sayoc is suspected of mailing his 14 pipe bombs, political commentator Rochelle Ritchie says she complained to Twitter about threats he made against her, including menacing messages and disturbing images such as alligators and human body parts, after one of her appearances on Fox News. 

One of the tweets from his account, which Twitter took down Friday, read: “We will see you 4 sure. Hug your loved ones real close every time you leave you home.”  

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The 56-year-old Florida man charged in the nationwide mail-bomb scare targeting prominent Democrats was taken into custody Friday (Oct. 26)
AP

Sayoc also is linked to Twitter accounts vilifying Democrats, particularly liberal donor George Soros, who received one of the pipe bomb packages, and Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Gillum.

Recent activity in what appears to be two social media accounts belonging to Sayoc paint a picture of a staunch supporter of both Trump and Ron DeSantis, the GOP nominee for governor who the president has endorsed, as well as Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Other posts criticize the Clintons and accuse David Hogg, one of the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting earlier this year, of working with Soros to oust Republicans from Congress.

Scott Meigs, 52, of West Palm Beach, said he worked alongside Sayoc for two decades at strip clubs all over South Florida and said his colleague had never uttered a word about politics. Until about a month ago.

That’s when Meigs said Sayoc began peppering him with text messages about how Republicans needed to win the midterm elections, the Florida governor’s race andFlorida’s U.S. Senate race.

“He started talking politics non-stop,” said Meigs as he worked his dee-jay shift Friday night at the Ultra Gentlemen’s Club in West Palm Beach.

Brushes with the law 

Sayoc was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1963. His father, Ceasar Sayoc, was born in 1932 and immigrated from the Philippines. In 1956, he applied to become a citizen of the United States, when he was living in Seattle, Washington, according to documents found on Ancestry.com.

Sayoc’s mother, Madeline Altieri, was from New York. The couple married in 1961 in Staten Island, New York. They divorced in 1972 in Miami-Dade, Florida.

Sayoc attended North Miami Beach High School, and at least two different colleges: First a year at Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina, starting in the fall of 1980, and later The University of North Carolina at Charlotte through 1984. He did not have a declared major and the school did not know where or if he transferred after he left there, school officials told USA TODAY.

According to posts on a Facebook group about growing up in North Miami Beach in the 1970s, Sayoc was on the junior varsity and varsity soccer teams at North Miami Beach high, where he was a captain. He later also played in college.

Tony Petty, one of his classmates, told USA TODAY, “I do remember him as being pretty quiet, well mannered. I had a couple of classes with him. I guess after we graduated things went down for him.”

Indeed, well before federal authorities charged Sayoc Friday with five federal crimes— including interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of an explosive and threats against former presidents — he had his share of run-ins with police.

In 2002, Sayoc was charged with threatening to “throw, project, place, or discharge any destructive device,” according to court records from Miami-Dade County.

Sayoc told lawyers in that 2014 deposition that he was arrested for calling in a bomb threat over unpaid deposits from the dry cleaners he claimed to have owned. “Then the bomb squad showed up to my store and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me, you know,’” he said.

More recently, Sayoc was arrested in May 2015 and later convicted of theft, according to court records. West Palm Beach Police reported that he stole a briefcase and a garment bag from a Walmart store. 

Ultimately, Sayoc’s bizarre life and its alleged recent turn down an even darker alley could be the result of mental illness, a lawyer representing Sayoc’s mother and father-in-law said Friday.

“He lives out of his vehicle,” said Miami attorney Ronald Lowy. “The signs of mental illness are clearly there. If you’re living out of your car for years you’re sick.”

For years, Sayoc’s exaggerations and boasting likely didn’t do much more than amuse or annoy people. And even when his actions allegedly turned toward violence, an intent to maim or kill was thwarted by a combination of poor bomb-making and alert postal workers. 

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A suspicious package addressed to Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, and similar to crude pipe bombs sent to prominent critics of President Trump, was recovered in Florida Friday, leading to increased security at Booker’s offices in New Jersey. (Oct. 26)
AP

But the damage inflicted on those who raised him will be deep and lasting. Speaking of Sayoc’s mother, Madeline Altieri, who heard of her son’s arrest as she woke up from anesthesia for an undisclosed surgery, Lowy said the impact of Friday’s arrest was immeasurable.

“How do you express a mother’s feelings when she’s crying in a hospital bed hearing that her son’s been arrested and it’s for one of the most major crimes of the year,’’ he said. “My heart goes out to these people because you couldn’t imagine a more decent and loving family. They did everything they could.”

Contributing: Jessica Guynn, Sergio Bustos and Brett Murphy of USA TODAY and Will Greenlee of Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/26/cesar-sayoc-life-stage-where-truth-bit-player/1778580002/

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