(NBC) A Florida man with a troubled past was identified Friday as the suspect who sent more than a dozen pipe bomb packages to prominent critics of President Donald Trump, law enforcement officials said.
DNA evidence played a role in the arrest of 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc Jr., whose past criminal history includes an arrest for making a bomb threat — and who, according to a cousin, worked as both an exotic dancer and bouncer in a number of strip clubs.
Sayoc’s white van, which had pictures of Trump and the presidential seal plastered to the windows, was seized by the officials and hauled off to a secure facility.
In Washington, Trump praised the FBI and Secret Service for the swift arrest of the suspect.
“It’s like a needle in a haystack,” Trump said. “And they have done an incredible, incredible job.”
Sayoc has a criminal record in Florida and was arrested in 2002 for making a bomb threat, according to Miami-Dade County court records. He pleaded guilty. There were also two arrests, one in 1992 and the other in 2014, for petit theft.
In the latter theft case, Sayoc tried to walk out of a Walmart with a shopping cart filled with $239 worth of merchandise, according to an arrest affidavit.
The suspect also appeared to have money troubles. Records revealed he filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and had a property foreclosed on in 2009. He has apparently been living in his van and showering at the gym where he works out, a Florida-based cousin who asked not to be identified told NBC News.
A registered Republican, Sayoc’s Facebook page had several postings in support of Trump. There also were several critical of George Soros, the liberal philanthropist who was targeted with one of the package bombs earlier this week.
According to records, Sayoc previously lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, and Brooklyn, New York.
But Sayoc grew up in North Miami Beach with his two sisters and was thrown out of his house as a teenager, the cousin said. The cousin described him as a “loose cannon” and a “lost soul” who was estranged from his family.
“He’s been in the strip clubs since he was 22, that was his life,” the cousin said. “He was a male dancer and he wanted to be a wrestler. He was taking steroids. He was all buffed up….He was built like a rock.”
Another cousin, who lives in another state, told NBC News she was stunned by Sayoc’s arrest.
“Oh my God,” the woman, who also asked not to be identified, said. “He’s always been a very nice, thoughtful person. I don’t know anything about this. It’s shocking.”
The cousin said she hadn’t seen Sayoc for two decades but that he called her recently after her father died.
“It was mostly just small talk,” she said. “How’s your family, that kind of thing. I don’t really know that much about him. We have a very big family.”
The dramatic development came on the same day two new suspicious packages were found, one addressed to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and the other to James Clapper, former director of national intelligence… By Pete Williams, Rich Schapiro and Corky Siemaszko