Did a Mob Movie Unintentionally Put a Criminal Russian Sub Smuggler Behind Bars?

Did a Netflix documentary accidently help put a Cuban mobster hiding in South Africa behind bars?

Or perhaps it was an observant comment on a Reddit social media conversation thread?

Nelson Tony Yester, 63, who once tried to buy a Russian submarine to help Colombian suppliers smuggle drugs to the U.S., was finally captured in Italy and extradited to America earlier in 2020.

On December 7, 2020, U.S. District Judge Carlos Mendoza in Orlando, Florida sentenced Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido a/k/a Nelson “Tony” Yester to five years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute a large amount of high-grade marijuana in the Middle District of Florida.

Yester DOJ Photo

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. They were 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.

Tiller Russell a director filming a Netflix documentary called Operation Odessa, was in Moscow when he received this text:

“You’ve met the waiters. You should come meet the chef. If you really want to talk about what happened, fly to Africa and meet me for a cup of coffee tomorrow.”


Russell’s film was about international mobsters, a Russian, a Miami playboy, and a Cuban spy. They were the characters who literally tried to sell a nuclear submarine to a Colombian drug cartel.

As far back as 2018, in a Reddit thread about the documentary, one observant commentator noticed something about the footage Russell had with Yesper.

“He’s hiding in South Africa, I recognize the plane in on of the scenes and in one of the hanger scenes with him you can see “Outh Afri” on the 747 in the background (indicating it’s a South African Airways plane) and the type of grass is indicative of Southern african bushveld.. plus I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him in the background of a news clipping but can’t for the life of me remember where.”

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 this month’s sentencing hearing that he had made $25 million from trafficking in marijuana and that he had supplied firearms to assist in the collection of the drug debt. 

The documentary provided additional clues for investigators:

Image for post

Behind Yester, who met the film crew at an airport hangar, is a L-39 Albatros two-seater, single engine aircraft designed and manufactured by Aero Vodochody for the Czechoslovakian Air Force.

A close examination of the movie revealed parts of words “uth” and “Afri” on a Boeing 747 parked further in the background.

These letters are exactly in sync with the word “South Africa.”

There is also what appears to be the blue tail of a Douglas DC-4 parked in front of the 747, an oddity for such aircrafts to be parked that close to each other at an international airport.

A South African Airlines search of those two different models indicated they were both stored at Rand Airport in Germiston, Johannesburg, South Africa.

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“The Google Earth image of May 30, 2016 as below, the Let-39 aircraft can be observed circled in red. The DC-4 and the 747 can be seen, however, interestingly it presents a perfect line of sight (yellow arrow)from the Yester interview screen shot to location of the aircraft.”

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Although it was January 2015 when the DEA began investigating the conspiracy, it was January 2017 that 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 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.

Yester-Garrido had pleaded guilty on August 11, 2020.

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Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Space Explorers
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.

As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.

He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.

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