Somewhere, a man named Leonardo Silva Oliveira is on the run from the South Florida law.
Somewhere else in South Florida, another man named Leonardo Silva Oliveira just spent five days in jail because, according to his lawyer, the police saw the same name, a passing resemblance and a birthday less than two weeks from the other man’s.
The first Mr. Oliveira, who was arrested on charges of burglary and grand theft in 2017, is wanted in Palm Beach County on charges of probation violation, according to the Coconut Creek Police Department.
But the second Mr. Oliveira, a 26-year-old cook, was arrested at the restaurant where he works on Jan. 20, accused of being the first Mr. Oliveira. Besides sharing the same name, both men have moderately long dark hair, and the fugitive Mr. Oliveira was born 10 days before the cook.
Scotty Leamon, a spokesman for the Coconut Creek Police Department, said the arrest “was based on the totality” of what his officers had.
He said the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office had contacted his department on Jan. 19, explaining that they had a warrant for Mr. Oliveira, the fugitive, and that he had an address in Coconut Creek, which is west of Fort Lauderdale.
“The license matched, the picture matched, the Social Security number matched,” Mr. Leamon said on Thursday. Mr. Leamon also said that one of his officers took a picture of Mr. Oliveira and sent it to a Palm Beach County deputy who verified that Mr. Oliveira was the man they were looking for.
Mr. Oliveira, the cook, was booked into the Broward County jail in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
A lawyer for Mr. Oliveira said his client had insisted to the authorities that they had the wrong person. “His pleas to clear this horrendous mistake have gone on deaf ears from everyone in the system,” he said in a statement.
“At some point after Oliveira was booked into the jail, he claimed he was not the individual listed on the warrant,” Carey Codd, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said in a statement on Thursday.
Mr. Oliveira told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which reported his arrest on Wednesday, that the authorities should have realized that he was the wrong person because he is 10 days younger and does not have tattoos. A police report from 2017 said the fugitive Mr. Oliveira had tattoos of buildings on his left arm and one of a clock on the right.
“They checked my arms,” Mr. Oliveira told The Sun Sentinel. “They didn’t see any. But they still took me in.”
His lawyer, Jose Castañeda, said in an interview that “the tattoo was a clear giveaway; the descriptions didn’t match, the date of births didn’t match.” He also said his client had never been arrested before, and that he was hired several days after Mr. Oliveira was taken to jail.
His client was released on Tuesday, when officials found that his fingerprints did not match those of the fugitive. Mr. Castañeda said the experience had been “a nightmare” for his client and his family.
“You can just imagine the joy of when he got out,” he said. “He was so excited.”
Mr. Castañeda said his client was not charged with a crime, just misidentified as the fugitive.
Michael Schutt, another lawyer for Mr. Oliveira, said in a statement that the team was investigating “to identify all culpable parties to this injustice.” He added, “It is critical that all those responsible be held accountable.”