The Florida man accused of sending bombs to top Democrats across the U.S. is a registered Republican with a criminal record who angrily criticized liberals on social media and who has a flamboyant history as a strip club manager and aspiring wrestler.
At the scene, federal officials also towed away Sayoc’s white van, which was covered with pro-Trump, anti-Democratic and anti-CNN stickers — like a physical version of the hostile posts and political memes posted on a Twitter account under Sayoc’s first and middle name over the last two years.
Many of the sometimes-incoherent posts criticized the billionaire liberal donors George Soros and Tom Steyer; Democratic politicians such as former President Obama and Tallahassee Mayor and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum; and liberal celebrities such as George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey.
The Twitter account, which was taken down Friday, also called Trump the “greatest gift from God.” An FBI affidavit said that some of the misspellings in the social media posts were consistent with misspellings on bomb packages sent to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
A typical post tweeted Oct. 13 read: “We Unconquered Seminole Tribe, HardRock,Millions of our customers, Vets, Current, Say absolutely No to Andrew Gillum Liberal,Left,Democrat George Soros,Cal.Tom Steyer Socialist High Taxes, High Crime.”
“He was off, man,” said Robert Fautz, the landlord of a Hollywood, Fla., grocery store where Sayoc once worked in the early 2010s. “He was kind of like a loner-type guy, like a guy in high school who wore black lipstick.”
Fautz, who said he hadn’t seen Sayoc in at least six years, said that Sayoc was very opinionated, but that his political views had apparently shifted over the last decade. “I would have called him like a Democrat, if I had to pick him,” Fautz said. “He was pretty liberal.” Sayoc is now a registered Republican.
It’s only one of several shifting identities that Sayoc — who has claimed Filipino, Italian and Native American heritage — has held in his life, which has been marked by abrupt changes in direction and a smattering of criminal convictions.
A graduate of North Miami Beach High School, Sayoc went on to play soccer at the collegiate level at Brevard College in North Carolina between 1980 and 1981 and then at the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 1983 and 1984. He didn’t graduate.
Years later, in a bombastic and wide-ranging 2014 deposition in a civil lawsuit, Sayoc said that he played soccer professionally for A.C. Milan, one of the highest-profile soccer clubs in Europe. (There is no apparent record of Sayoc being on the team’s professional roster.) He also said he joined a professional wrestling training camp with the hopes of doing WWE-style wrestling.
Sayoc also claimed to have played professional arena football in the U.S. in Arizona and Charlotte before going on to various business ventures, where he hyped his success — especially as a booker and road manager for a Chippendales-style men’s strip show, which he said he had done since 1982. “I’m the best at this business,” he said of his work at strip clubs and shows.
Even when being grilled by lawyers, Sayoc had a flair for unapologetic promotion that was positively Trumpian.
“Chippendales … We’re the number one name in entertainment,” Sayoc said in a deposition involving a strip club where he later worked. “Put them on any stage and we’ll blow them out of the water, because there ain’t nobody that stands with us on any entertainment stage. I’ll put a hundred thousand dollars against anybody that says so, let them put all their clubs together and we’ll embarrass them.”
But the real Chippendales has a much dimmer view of Sayoc’s stories.
“This man never worked for us,” said Michael Caprio, a spokesman for the revue, who added that it appeared that Sayoc actually worked for a company that Chippendales has sued for infringing on the group’s name. “As you can imagine, we want no affiliation with this nut job.”
One of the lawyers who took Sayoc’s deposition had a similarly skeptical perspective.
“He gave a biography of himself that seemed delusional and almost comical in how farfetched it had to be,” the attorney, David McDonald, wrote in an email to The Times. “He seemed to want to place himself as a key figure in a number of wildly divergent business ventures, when it was obvious he could not have played the role he described.”
In a 2012 bankruptcy filing, Sayoc said he was unmarried, living with his mother, and earning $13,000 a year as a grocery store manager after collecting unemployment in 2009 and 2010. He said he owned a 2001 Chevy Tahoe with 285,000 miles on it.
Even in the bankruptcy filing, Sayoc didn’t list the grocery store as his employer — rather, he said he worked for the investment company that owned the property.
“He was definitely very sure of himself. He was confident, but he was a bust-out. He didn’t have any money,” said Fautz, who owned the investment company. “He was working at a grocery store in a low-income, moderate neighborhood.”
Fautz, who is of Italian heritage, said Sayoc also made a big deal about being Italian, but there was “nothing authentic Italian about him.”
In Sayoc’s Twitter profile, he seemed to more recently identify himself as a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida — and in 2016 created an LLC called “Native American Catering & Vending” — but in a statement, the tribe said it could find “no evidence” that Sayoc was a member.
His life has also been pocked by a variety of criminal arrests, including convictions for petty theft, grand theft, possession of an unlawful driver’s license, illegal possession of steroids, and battery.
In 2014 — the same year Sayoc was bragging in a deposition about his prowess as a club promoter who could command $4,500 a week — he was accused of stealing copper piping off a shelf at Home Depot.
The criminal case drawing the most curiosity this week was Sayoc’s 2002 arrest for threatening to bomb an electric utility “worse than September 11th” if it shut off his electricity, according to a police report.
In Sayoc’s deposition more than a decade later, he blamed his own “stupidity” and said, “I got on the phone and I said, ‘What do I have to do, blow up a building to talk to somebody?’” He said it was all a misunderstanding over a joke.
Except in Sayoc’s version of the story, he was a dry-cleaning business owner who had been overcharged for some sort of deposits. (He didn’t actually own the shop.)
“Even though what he was saying was fantastical,” McDonald said, “he said it with conviction and seemed to believe it.”
And by 2018, Sayoc’s social media feeds seemed to be singularly focused on his assertion that Democrats were deceiving the world about their true, manipulative natures.
“They can lie all they want now,” reads one of the memes posted by the Twitter account under Sayoc’s name, “but the truth is the truth!”