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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 21, 2019

Cesar Sayoc Pleads Guilty to 65 Felonies for Mailing 16 Improvised Explosive Devices in Connection with October 2018 Domestic Terrorist Attack

Sayoc Pleaded Guilty to 65 Felonies, Including Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Interstate Mailing of Explosives

Cesar Altieri Sayoc, aka “Cesar Randazzo,” “Cesar Altieri,” and “Cesar Altieri Randazzo,” pled guilty today to a 65-count Superseding Information in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff.  In connection with the guilty plea, Sayoc admitted to mailing 16 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to 13 victims throughout the country, including 11 current or former U.S. government officials, and that he intended to use the IEDs as weapons and to cause injuries.  Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director Michael McGarrity of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD made the announcement.

“Cesar Sayoc has admitted to acts of domestic terrorism that are repulsive to all Americans who cherish a society built on respectful and non-violent political discourse, no matter how strongly held one’s views,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Our democracy will simply not survive if our political discourse includes sending bombs to those we disagree with.  I applaud the efforts of so many in our law enforcement community whose alertness and tirelessness led to the prompt arrest of the defendant before he was able to injure anyone, as well as those whose efforts led to today’s plea.”

“For five days in November 2018, Cesar Sayoc reigned terror across the country, sending high-ranking officials and former elected leaders explosive packages through the mail,” said U.S. Attorney Berman.  “Thankfully no one was hurt by these dangerous devices, but his actions left an air of fear and divisiveness in their wake.  Sayoc has taken responsibility for his crimes, and will soon be sentenced to significant time in prison.”

“This case shows that the FBI will be tenacious in pursuing all those who wish to intimidate those they disagree with by threatening violence,” said Assistant Director Michael McGarrity of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.  “When it comes to identifying and stopping those who terrorize our communities, we won’t hesitate to bring the full force of our combined resources of the FBI and our partners.”

“Sayoc's crimes were intended to incite fear among his targets and uncertainty among the general public, leading to a significant deployment of various law enforcement resources in a nationwide search to find him,” said Assistant Director Sweeney.  “When called upon, our FBI JTTFs across the country—along with our partner agencies—did what we do best, working swiftly, and side by side, to bring him to justice.  Unlike most of our investigations, this case played out in plain view from beginning to end.  The announcement of today's plea is as good a time as any to remind the public that our JTTFs are working behind the scenes on a daily basis, in much the same way, to keep our communities safe.”

“The NYPD and our law enforcement partners will continue to work tirelessly to keep New York City safe from threats of terror,” said Commissioner O’Neill.  “I commend the members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the Southern District of New York for their work in this case.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint, Superseding Information, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings: 

In October 2018, Sayoc mailed from Florida 16 padded envelopes, each containing an IED, to addresses in New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Atlanta, and California.  Sayoc packed each IED with explosive material and glass shards that would function as shrapnel if the IED exploded.  Sayoc also attached to the outside of each IED a picture of the intended victim marked with a red “X.”  As Sayoc admitted today during his plea, he designed the IEDs for use as weapons and mailed them understanding that they were capable of exploding and causing injuries and property damage.  In alphabetical order, Sayoc’s intended victims were former Vice President Joseph Biden, Senator Cory Booker, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN, Robert De Niro, Senator Kamala Harris, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama, George Soros, Thomas Steyer, and Representative Maxine Walters.  Between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2, 2018, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service recovered all of the 16 IEDs mailed by Sayoc.

The FBI arrested Sayoc in Plantation, Florida, on Oct. 26, 2018—less than five days after the October 22 recovery of the first IED, which Sayoc mailed to Soros in New York.  The FBI seized a laptop from Sayoc’s van, which contained lists of physical addresses that match many of the labels on the envelopes that Sayoc mailed.  The lists were saved at a file path on the laptop that includes a variant of Sayoc’s first name:  “Users/Ceasar/Documents.”  A document from that path, titled “Debbie W.docx” and bearing a creation date of July 26, 2018, contained repeated copies of an address for “Debbie W. Schultz” in Sunrise, Florida, that is nearly identical, except for typographical errors, to the return address that Sayoc used on the packages.  Similar documents bearing file titles that include the name “Debbie,” and creation dates of Sept. 22, 2018, contain exact matches of the return address used by Sayoc on the 16 envelopes. 

Sayoc’s laptop also revealed extensive Internet search history related to his investigation of the intended victims and his desire to injure or kill them.  For example, Sayoc conducted the following Internet searches, among others, on the dates indicated in 2018:

  • July 15: “hilary Clinton hime address”
  • July 26: “address Debbie wauserman Shultz”
  • Sept. 19: “address kamila harrias”
  • Sept. 26: “address for barack Obama”
  • Sept. 26: “michelle obama mailing address”
  • Sept. 26: “joseph biden jr”
  • Oct. 1: “address cory booker new jersey”
  • Oct. 20: “tom steyers mailing address”
  • Oct. 23: “address kamala harris”

*                      *                      *

Sayoc, 57, of Southern Florida, pled guilty to four sets of charges related to each of the 16 IEDs:  (1) sixteen counts of using a weapon of mass destruction; (2) sixteen counts of interstate transportation of an explosive device; (3) sixteen counts of conveying a threat in interstate commerce; and (4) sixteen counts of the illegal mailing of explosives with the intent to kill or injure another.  Sayoc also pled guilty to using an explosive to commit a felony, which relates to felonies committed in connection with the use and mailing of all 16 IEDs.  A chart identifying the charges and maximum penalties applicable to Sayoc is below.

Counts

Charge

Penalties Per Count

1 – 16

Using a weapon of mass destruction

Maximum per count: life

17 – 32

Interstate transportation of an explosive

Maximum per count: 10 years

33 – 48

Conveying a threat in interstate commerce

Maximum per count: 5 years

49 – 64

Illegal mailing of explosives with intent to kill or injure another

Maximum per count: 20 years

65

Carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony

Mandatory minimum: 10 years to run consecutively to any other sentence imposed

The maximum and minimum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Rakoff on Sept. 12, 2019.

Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the New York City Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Florida, the District of Columbia, the District of Delaware, the District of New Jersey, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California and the Northern District of Georgia for their assistance in the investigation.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Adelsberg, Emil J. Bove III, Jane Kim, and Jason A. Richman are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Cora of the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

 

Topic(s): 
National Security
Press Release Number: 
19-260
Updated March 21, 2019