Bomb plot suspect undone by DNA

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — In the hours before his arrest, as federal authorities zeroed in and secretly accumulated evidence, Cesar Sayoc was in his element: DJ’ing in a nightclub where he’d found work in the last two months.

As he entertained patrons at the Ultra Gentlemen’s Club, he could not have known that lab technicians and agents had linked DNA on two pipe bomb packages he was accused of sending prominent Demo­crats to a sample on file with Flor­ida state authorities.

Or that a fingerprint match had turned up on a separate mailing the authorities say he sent.

He almost certainly had no idea that investigators scouring his social media accounts had found the same spelling mistakes on his online posts — “Hilary” Clinton, Deborah Wasserman “Shultz” — as on the mailings he’d soon be charged with sending.

In the end, prosecutors who charged Sayoc with five federal crimes Friday say the fervent President Donald Trump supporter unwittingly left behind a wealth of clues, affording them a critical break in a coast-to-coast investigation into pipe bomb mailings that spread fear of election-season violence.

The bubble-wrapped manila envelopes, addressed to Demo­crats such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and intercepted from Delaware to Calif­ornia, held vital forensic evidence that investigators said they leveraged to arrest Sayoc just four days after the investigation started.

“Criminals make mistakes so the more opportunities that law enforcement has to detect them, the greater chance they’re going to be able to act on that, and that appears to be what happened here,” said former Justice Department lawyer Aloke Chakravarty, who prosecuted the Boston Marathon bombing case.

It wasn’t always clear that such a break would come, at least not on Mon­day when the first package arrived: a pipe bomb delivered via mail to an estate in Bedford, New York, belonging to billionaire liberal activist George Soros.

That same day, Sayoc, still under the radar of law enforcement, retweeted a post saying, “The world is waking up to the horrors of George Soros.”

Each delivery created more unease. But together they also provided more leads for the FBI, which mined each pipe bomb for clues at a specialized laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.