Florida man charged after bombs sent to Trump critics

Monday, 29 October 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


PLANTATION, Fla., (Reuters): The Florida man suspected of mailing at least 14 pipe bombs to some of US President Donald Trump’s leading critics was in custody on federal charges on Saturday, in a case reflecting the rancour of one of the most toxic election campaigns in decades.

Cesar Sayoc, 56, a part-time pizza deliveryman, grocery worker and former stripper once charged with threatening to bomb an electric company in a billing dispute, was arrested by federal agents outside an auto parts store in Plantation near Miami on Friday.

Authorities also seized a white van that Sayoc appeared to have used as his dwelling, its windows plastered with pro-Trump stickers, the slogan ‘CNN SUCKS’, and images of Democratic leaders with red cross-hairs over their faces.

Fingerprint and DNA evidence helped identify the suspect, but his arrest did not necessarily end the threat, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned at a news conference. He said other packages may still be in transit.

Sayoc was charged with five felony counts, including interstate transportation and illegal mailing of explosives, threatening a former President, making threatening interstate communications and assaulting federal officers.

He was expected to be held at the Federal Detention Centre in downtown Miami and make his first appearance before a judge on Monday, according to former Assistant US Attorney David Weinstein. If convicted, Sayoc could be sentenced up to 48 years in prison, officials said.

One federal law enforcement source told Reuters that authorities were investigating whether other individuals were involved and did not rule out further arrests.

Sayoc’s arrest followed a four-day manhunt sparked by the discovery of bombs concealed in packages addressed to leading Democratic figures, including former President Barack Obama and former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated in the 2016 Presidential race.

Some of the parcels also contained photographs of the intended recipients marked with a red X, according to a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court.

The complaint accused Sayoc of sending 13 bombs to 11 individuals, starting with billionaire Democratic donor George Soros. A package surfaced on Monday near his home in Katonah, New York.

A 14th package was found on Friday at a post office outside San Francisco addressed to another wealthy contributor to the Democratic Party and liberal causes, Tom Steyer.

The bombs were sent in manila envelopes lined with bubble wrap and consisted of plastic 6-inch pipes packed with explosive material and wired to small clocks and batteries, the complaint said.

Wray said investigators had yet to determine whether the bombs were “functional”. All were sent through the US Postal Service system and intercepted before reaching their intended targets without exploding. No one has been hurt.