CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Federal law enforcement officials made an arrest Friday in connection to the mass mail bombings targeting high-profile Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump, said a Justice Department spokesperson.
The suspect is Cesar Sayoc Jr., a 56-year-old Florida resident. Sayoc has been charged with five federal crimes that could put him away for up to 58 years, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who spoke during a Department of Justice press conference Friday afternoon.
The charges against Sayoc include interstate transportation of an explosive device, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and other persons, threatening interstate communications and assaulting current and former federal officers.
Digging through public records and criminal court records in Mecklenburg County have revealed the suspect has ties to the Charlotte area.
On a phone call with WBTV’s Jamie Boll, former UNC Charlotte soccer coach Bob Warming identified Sayoc as a former walk-on player on the 1983 soccer team.
“Cesar wasn’t on the team very long," said Warming, who believes the walk-on was only on the squad for two months. “It’s a very sad thing to learn of – it’s very sad.”
Warming wasn’t able to remember specifics about Sayoc during his short stint on the team but did say he longer gets surprised by anything he hears these days.
“You learn to expect anything in life if you live long enough.”
WBTV reporter Alex Giles spoke with a former UNCC soccer player who remembers Sayoc during that 1983 season.
Neil Orridge told Giles he actually took Sayoc’s spot as a starter on the team 35 years ago. He says Sayoc didn’t finish the year with the team.
“The name is familiar the photograph brought it home,” said Orridge, who was shocked to see his former teammates face on the news. “That was him.”
Orridge said Sayoc wasn’t the most social guy on the team. He said the Sayoc he remembers was ‘intimidating’ and a ‘big, strong gentleman’.
"He was aloof. He was a little weird. He was a little out there. He's not the type of fellow you made friends with easy,” explained Orridge.
The former teammate says he was stunned to see a news article about Sayoc’s arrest Friday morning.
“It's just unbelievable. Shock. Just incredible that somebody that you knew, no matter how long ago it was, would be responsible for something like that,” said Orridge.
While the arrest is very surprising to him, Orridge said he was not shocked to hear Sayoc was in some manner of trouble.
“If you had given me a list of all the players that were on the team and said there were maybe two or three guys that may have fallen on some hard times, he would probably have been one that I would have picked,” said Orridge.
A statistics page for the UNCC Soccer team shows Sayoc played in 11 games that season and started seven of those games.
According to a Public Records search, Cesar Sayoc Jr. has more than one connection to the Charlotte area.
Records show he had an address in south Charlotte near Ardrey Kell High School in February 2000.
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed Cesar Sayoc Jr. was arrested on April 10, 1999 in relation to a possession of a stolen vehicle charge.
Police in Plantation, FL, towed away a white van with windows covered in pro-Trump stickers. Other decals included Hillary Clinton with a target over her face and “CNN sucks.”