The first thing that stood out about Cesar Sayoc was his vehicle.
As far back as 2002, lawyer Ronald Lowy recalled, the windows of Sayoc’s white Dodge Ram van were covered in stickers of Native American regalia. Though Sayoc was Filipino and Italian, he claimed to be a proud member of the Seminole tribe, Lowy said.
The lie was one of many Sayoc would spread about himself over the years. He falsely claimed to have worked as a Chippendales dancer, and he was once charged with fraud for modifying his driver’s license to make it appear he was younger, said Lowy, who represented him in the case. Sayoc seemed to have a new business venture every three months, though none was successful. He worked as a DJ or bouncer at strip clubs, dabbled in bodybuilding, and spent much of the past decade living out of his van, Lowy said.
“He made up stories in order to try to impress people,” Lowy said. “He felt like he didn’t have a background that he respected or liked.”
Then Donald Trump burst onto the political scene.
Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man who friends and other associates say had never shown any interest in politics, suddenly began sharing images of himself on Facebook at Trump campaign events. He signed up for Twitter, where he trafficked in conspiracy theories and conservative memes. He registered as a Republican to vote in Florida — Lowy said he believes it was for the first time in Sayoc’s life — in 2016. He traded out his Native American decals for ones that supported Trump. [Continue reading…]