A Florida man spent five days in county jail after he was mistaken for a wanted fugitive with the same name, age and similar appearance.
Twenty-six-year-old Leonardo Silva Oliveira, a cook, was arrested on Jan. 20 outside of the Broward County restaurant where he works after law enforcement mistook him for a different Leonardo Silva Oliveira, 26, who was wanted on probation charge violations from Boca Raton, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Oliveira, the cook, claimed police should have known they’d picked up the wrong man as he does not have any tattoos. Police reports indicate the fugitive had tattoos on his arms, Oliveira said: a clock on the right arm and a building on his left.
“They checked my arms. They didn’t see any. But they still took me in,” the cook, of Coconut Creek, told the paper.
He was jailed until Tuesday, when authorities realized the blunder and let him go.
According to an arrest report from the Coconut Creek Police Department, the cook was ID’d through his Florida driver’s license and vehicle information, even though his birth date was different from the fugitive’s.
Police spokesman Sgt. Scotty Leamon told the Sun-Sentinel said officials in Palm Springs County – where Boca Raton is located – had requested help in identifying the cook as the fugitive. It’s unclear which agency had requested assistance.
Oliveria, the cook, had never been in trouble with the law before he was apprehended outside of the Deerfield Beach restaurant.
He said he had been placed under “24-hour lockdown.”
“I finally got out of the cell for an hour a day Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It was a little window, no TV,” he told the paper. “Nothing to do but just stare at the walls and try to stay warm.”
He told everyone he could that they had the wrong man.
“How could I be wanted on a probation violation when I’ve never been arrested for anything? It was a nightmare.”
He was told by a Broward County Judge Phoebe Francois that she could not interfere as the case originated in Palm Beach County.
He hired attorney Jose Castañeda on Monday, who filed a motion to have his client released noting that his client has no tattoos or criminal history. He additionally noted that the fugitive weighed 213 pounds when he was arrested for burglary in 2017, while the cook weighs less than 150 pounds.
He was released from custody after his fingerprints were compared to the fugitive’s by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
“When it was determined that the fingerprints did not match, Oliveira was immediately released from jail,” sheriff’s spokesman Carey Codd said.
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