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Press Release

International Fugitive Sentenced In Drug Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Orlando, Florida – U.S. District Judge Carlos Mendoza has sentenced Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido a/k/a Nelson “Tony” Yester (63, Cuba) to five years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute a large amount of high-grade marijuana in the Middle District of Florida. Yester-Garrido had pleaded guilty on August 11, 2020.

According to court documents, from the late 1980s through early 1997, Yester-Garrido was part of a group involved in importing kilogram amounts of cocaine and other narcotics into the United States, including by negotiating the purchase of a Russian diesel submarine for Colombian drug suppliers. Around 1997, Yester-Garrido fled to South Africa to escape prosecution related to charges filed in the Southern District of Florida (which have since been dismissed).

Between December 2014 and continuing through February 25, 2015, Yester-Garrido conspired with Andrew Cassara, Juan Almeida, and others, both known and unknown, to possess with the intent to distribute a large amount of marijuana in the Middle District of Florida. Yester-Garrido’s specific role in the drug trafficking conspiracy was to assist, from South Africa, in trying to collect a $250,000 debt that was owed to co-conspirators by a Dominican drug-trafficking group. Almeida and Cassara had traveled to South Africa in December 2014 to meet with Yester-Garrido and seek his assistance with the drug debt after $250,000 worth of high-grade marijuana was stolen from co-conspirators. Cassara testified during the sentencing hearing that he had made $25 million dollars from trafficking in marijuana and that he had supplied firearms to assist in the collection of the drug debt. 

In January 2015, the DEA began investigating the conspiracy, and in January 2017, an indictment was returned in the Middle District of Florida charging three of Yester-Garrido’s co-conspirators, Almeida, Cassara, and Wade Jones, Jr. (Each of three was adjudicated guilty and sentenced in 2018.)

In October 2017, Yester-Garrido himself was indicted on drug and gun charges. In November 2017, based upon a provisional arrest warrant requested by the U.S. government, Italian authorities apprehended Yester-Garrido at the Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy. In July 2019, the Italian judicial authorities and the Ministry of Justice granted the request for Yester Garrido’s extradition to the United States.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the South African Police Service Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Italian prosecutorial and law enforcement authorities provided significant assistance in securing the defendant’s extradition from Italy. The U.S. Marshals Service also provided critical assistance in the extradition to the Middle District of Florida. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney E. Jackson Boggs, Jr.

Updated December 11, 2020

Drug Trafficking