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Florida man charged in mail threats targeting Democrats

The arrest was made just hours after two more devices were found Friday.

By Clyde Hughes and Danielle Haynes
1/11
Florida man charged in mail threats targeting Democrats
An NYPD Emergency Services vehicle transports a suspicious package Friday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A Florida man was charged in connection with 13 suspected pipe bombs sent this week to prominent Democrats, including four more found in New York and Florida on Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray identified the suspect as Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Aventura, Fla., north of Miami.

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Authorities arrested Sayoc in the parking lot of an Auto Zone store in nearby Plantation.

Sessions said Sayoc faces five federal charges for interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of an explosive, threats against former presidents and certain other persons, threatening interstate communications, and assaulting current or former officers. If convicted, Sayoc could be sentenced to 48 years in prison.

RELATED Mail bomb suspect: active Trump supporter with criminal record

"We will not tolerate such lawlessness, especially not political violence," Sessions said during a Friday afternoon news conference. "Let this be a lesson to anyone, regardless of their political beliefs ... we will find you, we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law."

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Wray said FBI forensic investigators identified Sayoc as a suspect after discovering a latent fingerprint on the envelope of the package sent to Rep. Maxine Waters' California office. Two other devices also carried evidence that officials linked to DNA collected from a previous arrest of the suspect.

Wray said each of the 12 devices were built from about 6 inches of PVC pipe and included a clock, battery, wiring and "energetic material," which can potentially explode under the right combination of heat, shock or friction. He said there may be other packages in transit.

"Today's arrest doesn't mean we're all out of the woods," he said, encouraging people to remain vigilant.

A van taken by law enforcement from the auto parts store's parking lot, images of which were posted by WPLG-TV, displayed a presidential seal with photos of President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other supportive images of the president.

Speaking at an event for young African-American conservatives at the White House on Friday afternoon, Trump acknowledged the arrest.

"We carried out a far-reaching federal, state and local investigation to find the person or persons responsible for these events," Trump said. "These acts are despicable and have no place in our country. I've instructed authorities to spare no resource or expense in finding those responsible and bringing them swift and certain justice."

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Photo by Nell Redmond/UPI

At a rally in Friday evening in Charlotte, N.C., Trump reiterated his call for unity and an "end to the politics of personal destruction," but returned to criticizing the media.

The media "has a major role to play whether they want to or not," he said as chants of "CNN sucks" broke out from the crowd.

The press is using the "sinister action of one individual to score political points against me and the Republican Party," he added.

A Twitter account believed to belong to the suspect, listed under the first and middle name Cesar Alteiri, is filled with negative comments, memes and images against liberal hedge fund billionaire George Soros, who received one of the packages. Also mentioned in posts are adult film model and Trump critic Stormy Daniels, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg, the National Football League and Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

Earlier Friday, four new packages were found -- one addressed to Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., intercepted in Florida; one to CNN's New York City offices for former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, a network contributor; and two found in California, to Sen. Kamala Harris and billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer. That brings the total number of suspicious packages to 14, though Sayoc has been charged for 13 of them.

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The FBI said the package addressed to Booker was discovered at a U.S. mail facility in Florida. The package addressed to Clapper was discovered at a mail facility six blocks from Time Warner Center in Manhattan. A different device was delivered to the building Wednesday, addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan care of CNN.

The Florida mail facility may also have handled at least one other package -- the one sent to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. It listed a wrong address for Holder in the Washington, D.C., area and was kicked back to the return address -- listed as the Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Other packages discovered this week also listed the return address for Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. They targeted Soros, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Waters and actor Robert De Niro. Two devices were sent to both Biden and Waters. All of the targeted figures have been critical of Trump.

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None of the devices went off.

"There's something more powerful than bombs, and that's your vote. People must vote!" De Niro said Friday, through his publicist.

"I thank God no one's been hurt," he added, and thanked "brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us."

Postal facilities around the country have been combing their databases and grounds for other devices that may be connected to the case, investigators said.

The FBI is leading a counterterrorism team working to find out if there are additional suspects or conspirators in the case.

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