Leonardo Silva Oliveira, a 26-year-old cook living in South Florida, spent five days in jail due to a case of mistaken identity. A fugitive out of Boca Raton, who was wanted for probation violations, allegedly had the exact name.
What’s even more odd, is that police said that they had birthdays just 10 days apart and similar descriptions. He was arrested outside of the Broward County restaurant where he is a cook and held in custody despite informing police that they had the wrong man.
Leonardo Silva Oliveira told authorities that he shouldn’t have been held so long because their birthdays were different (though close) and he did not have any tattoos. The fugitive Leonardo reportedly had a building tattoo on his left arm and a clock on his right.
“They checked my arms. They didn’t see any. But they still took me in,” the cook told the newspaper.
In defense of the arrest, The Coconut Creek Police Department wrote in their arrest record that Leonardo Silva Oliveira was picked up because their information database said that he was the right man despite their different birthdays. The system identified him through driver’s license information, matching age, location, and description.
After having trouble confirming his identity, police in Palm Beach County allegedly asked around for help tying the cook to the fugitive.
“I was on 24-hour lockdown,” Leonardo Silva Oliveira told reporters. “I finally got out of the cell for an hour a day Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It was a little window, no TV. Nothing to do but just stare at the walls and try to stay warm.”
He told police that he couldn’t have violated probation because he had never even been arrested before or had any run-ins with law enforcement.
“How could I be wanted on a probation violation when I’ve never been arrested for anything?” Oliveira said. “It was a nightmare.”
According to Local 10 News, Leonardo Silva Oliveira appeared in court for his first appearance hearing. He told the judge that police had the wrong man, but County Court Judge Phoebe Francois allegedly said she was “powerless to interfere,” because the arrest was from Palm Beach County.
It is unknown what Judge Prancois would have ordered, or why no one at the courthouse helped his cause.
He hired attorney Jose Castaneda on his fourth consecutive day in custody, who swiftly filed a motion for his release. He claimed that not only did his client have no tattoos and a different birthday, but that his description listed his weight over 60 pounds lighter.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office then compared Oliveira’s fingerprints with those of the fugitives, and he was released on his fifth day.
“When it was determined that the fingerprints did not match, Oliveira was immediately released from jail,” Broward County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Carey Codd told ABC News.
It was not revealed why it took five days to obtain or test the fingerprints. Leonardo Silva Oliveira has also not yet revealed if he plans to sue the police department for holding him in prison on mistaken identity for five days.
In Las Vegas this week, another case of mistaken identity held a man in prison for six days following an even more bizarre mix-up. According to KTNV–TV, Shane Lee Brown, a 25-year-old Black man, was held on a warrant for a white man twice his age.
“I don’t know whether the mistake was intentional. I don’t know whether it was negligent. I don’t know if race played a factor. All those things are possible,” Brown’s lawyer told reporters. “What we do know is we’re looking for someone to be held accountable.”
“I don’t know how you confuse a young, African American man with a middle-aged white man, when the descriptions are so readily available to you,” he continued. “I mean, it’s inexcusable.”