When the U.S. Marshals issued an arrest warrant for Anibal Mustelier in 1995, he had thick, bushy brown hair sprouting atop his head. His face was unblemished, and light stubble gave his face a youthful glow.
After Mustelier, 66, was arrested this past Sunday, his latest mug shot shows his hair has faded to gray, and his goatee has turned shades of salt and pepper. His cheeks have sunken, and wrinkles snake across his forehead.
He had, after all, spent 26 years in hiding after working as an alleged "contract killer" and hit man for Colombian drug cartels, including Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel. Some even linked Mustelier, also known as "The Ghost," to Fidel Castro himself.
According to a 2001 Sun Sentinel report, Mustelier was "feared even by the toughest drug smugglers of Miami's Cocaine Cowboy days, but at the same time he was an esteemed professional."
According to arrest reports obtained by New Times, Hialeah Police finally caught the five-foot-four Mustelier after, police say, he was caught executing a bungled armed robbery of a Hialeah jewelry store.
Around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, August 7, Mustelier, along with a team of codefendants, punched a hole in the roof of a nail salon, D & J Nails, and dropped inside, police say. They then tried to drill a hole into the adjacent business — the Real Deal jewelry store — to get inside. They had brought guns with them, according to police.
After breaking through the wall, one of the other robbers, Jose Eduardo Pineda, allegedly found a woman inside and punched her in the face several times to prevent her from escaping.
However, the group accidentally drilled through a metal pipe with wires inside, shorting out the lights in the entire shopping center.
Around 8:50 a.m. the next morning, a witness says he saw a "suspicious male" standing outside the store acting as a lookout and heard unknown voices emanating from inside the jewelry store. Possibly realizing they'd been seen, the alleged robbers bolted, carrying large black duffel bags with them and shielding their eyes with their hands.
Police say Mustelier and his accomplices made off with about $160,000 in jewelry.
Afterward, Hialeah Police say, a confidential informant began cooperating with the cops and recorded conversations with the alleged burglars.
Last Sunday, police arrested Mustelier and searched his home, where they found several pieces of jewelry "still in the soft fabric used by jewelry shops as display," multiple Rolex and Cartier watches, a bulletproof vest, some two-way radios, a ski mask, and "multiple gloves," police say.
Mustelier is charged with armed burglary, armed robbery, possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, and possession of a firearm with an altered serial number, among other charges. He's being held without bond at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami.
He's also being held due to outstanding warrants in two other cases. In one case, stemming from a first-degree grand-theft charge after he robbed a bank, his bond has been set at $1.5 million.
He was also wanted for attempted murder.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The bungled robbery was a stunning downfall for a man who had successfully eluded authorities for more than two decades. His case inspired an entire episode of America's Most Wanted.
According to the Sun Sentinel, the Medellín Cartel hired Mustelier to kill a Miami businessman after cartel member Orestes Blanco feared $1 million in cash he had given the businessman was about to go missing.
Ed Halley, then an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told the paper: "Everything about him is a mystery. He's got funny addresses, he's used three or four different aliases. If there ever was a super-cautious man, it's him."
In 1989, Mustelier allegedly used a machine gun to attack the Miami businessman, but the man escaped. In 1990, Mustelier allegedly helped put a bomb under the man's car, but the bomb was placed incorrectly and didn't kill the car's occupants.
By 1997, U.S. Marshals assumed Mustelier had fled to Venezuela.