For 27 years, nobody with a badge knew where to find career thief Anibal Mustelier, a suspected hit man for the Cuban government and Medillín drug cartel. Not local cops, not FBI, not Interpol. Nor a public put on the case by “America’s Most Wanted” could change the “whereabouts unknown” status of a man so ephemeral, he was nicknamed “"The Ghost."
For likely the rest of his life, Mustelier can be found by anybody who puts his name into the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator. Mustelier, 67, received a 52-year sentence in U.S. District Court last week for a pile of charges including robberies at Hialeah’s Luany Jewelry Store in 2015 and Ariel Jewelry Store in 2016.
Finally given a shot in court at Mustelier, long a member of the FBI’s Most Wanted list, prosecutors loaded up on the charges. They collected big in May with guilty verdicts on: two counts of the Hobbs Act (affecting interstate or foreign commerce) robbery, two counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery, one count of attempt to commit a Hobbs Act robbery, one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Hialeah resident Jose Pineda-Castro got 47 years, eight months on the same charges, minus being a felon in possession of a firearm. Pineda-Castro’s wife, Yamile Diaz-Bernal, got four years, three months for conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery.
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But the prize for federal authorities was Mustelier, on the run for almost as long as his criminal sidekicks have been alive. He is also under indictment in a 1995 extortion case as well as for the $5 million 1996 Sun Bank Brickell branch heist.
According to court documents, Mustelier and Pineda-Castro, 28, broke into the businesses next to the jewelry stores the night before the robberies. They would break through the adjoining wall and hide inside until the jewelry store employees arrived the next morning. Then, they’d break through the drywall, a sudden, shocking malevolence in ski masks with guns flashing.
Mustelier would be brought down by Pineda-Castro, but not because Pineda-Castro blew a third robbery at Hialeah’s Real Deal Jewelry with a comic goofup — unintentionally cutting the electricity to the entire shopping center containing the store they planned to rob.
A confidential informant trying to get Pineda-Castro to talk about firearms dealing and other criminal activity successfully got the couple talking about the robberies. The conversations tapped Mustelier as Pineda-Castro’s guide in the robberies and Bernal as the one who cased the stores before the robberies.
Pineda-Castro’s neck tattoo identified him in one of the robberies. Eventually, the Justice Department said, Pineda-Castro unwittingly led authorities to Mustelier’s Hialeah apartment, where they found ski masks, guns, handcuffs and the jewelry from the robberies.
And they found Mustelier.