Cesar Altieri Sayoc, the Florida man suspected of mailing parcel bombs to high-profile critics of President Donald Trump, once faced theft and drug possession charges after an alleged scheme that involved buying vitamins, swapping them out for beans and attempting to return them for a refund, Hennepin County court records show.
Sayoc, 56, who apparently lived in Plymouth in the mid-1990s, was arrested in Bloomington in 1995 after he was accused of purchasing vitamins and growth supplements from health food stores in Edina and Bloomington, then trying to return the containers filled with beans or water, according to a criminal complaint filed then. During his arrest, police found a small rock of crack cocaine, but the case against him was tossed out a decade later when the suspected drugs were destroyed without testing, records show. The theft charges were also dismissed.
Sayoc listed as his address 2021 Yellowstone Lane. But Hennepin County officials said Friday that they currently have no record of any such address. It isn't clear how long he lived in the state, and public records show no other previous addresses.
A full picture of Sayoc was still emerging Friday as federal authorities announced charges against him for allegedly sending more than a dozen explosive devices to former President Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and various other public figures who have been frequent targets of Trump's scorn.
Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was a regular target of Sayoc's politically charged rants on Twitter, but an Oct. 8 tweet took aim at Keith Ellison, the Democratic candidate for attorney general in Minnesota.
It read: "Keith Ellison busted lies about fake day care Somalias 100 million dollar rip off of all Americans. The Somalia refugees laundering US money finance terrorist in Somalia. It time America we step up get rid all democrat scams rip off Media hid s [sic]."
In the 1995 case in Minnesota, Sayoc, then 33, was accused in a refund scam involving south metro health supplement stores. In January of that year, authorities say, he visited three different stores — General Nutrition Center and Nature Foods in Edina, and Bloomington's Nature's Food Center — and bought hundreds of dollars worth of vitamins and liquid supplements. He would later return the containers for a refund, which store employees found were filled with beans and water, according to the complaint. He allegedly swindled the stores of $568 in altered merchandise.
Sayoc returned to Nature's Food Center on Jan. 25, where he was arrested by Bloomington police, who had been alerted to his conduct. When he was taken to the station, he "continuously thrashed around in the back seat" and "was kicking the passenger seat," the complaint read. Once he was jailed, police found 0.5 grams of suspected crack cocaine on the floor of the squad car he was riding in, they said.
According to court records, Sayoc was released at some point and arrested again in late 2005 at a Plymouth gas station on a warrant. He made his initial court appearance and was later released from the Hennepin County jail after posting $5,000 bail, the records show. The case was thrown out a week later, because "the drugs were destroyed in 1997 and never brought to the city chemist," according to a dismissal order that came from the office of then-county attorney Amy Klobuchar but was signed by assistant county attorney Gretchen Gray-Larson. This contradicted the original criminal complaint, in which the investigating officer claimed "that the suspected drugs were delivered to Minneapolis City Chemist Bruce Person whose testing proved positive for 0.5 grams cocaine base."
The court records do not explain the 10-year gap between the initial charges and second 2005 arrest.
A spokeswoman for Edina police said the department previously destroyed all files related to the case, in accordance with its data retention policy. Minneapolis officials said they had no records of any contacts with Sayoc, and an e-mail to Bloomington police wasn't immediately returned.
Staff writer Randy Furst and the Associated Press contributed to this report.