Chery, a Polk County school bus driver who lives in Haines City, was declared a fugitive and arrested Tuesday afternoon after a police officer discovered a warrant out of New York City for his arrest.
A day and a half later
he was released from jail after officials finally determined that the wanted person wasn't Chery.
That news was unsurprising to Chery, a 45-year-old Haitian man with a wife and three children. He'd lived in Florida for 17 years without a single arrest or traffic violation.
But someone in the criminal database shared his name: Jean Chery, a woman wanted by the New York Police Department on a felony assault charge from Manhattan in 1998.
Despite the different sexes, Social Security numbers, locations and fingerprints, Jean Chery of Polk County left a Publix parking lot in Haines City in handcuffs Tuesday.
Chery recalled the events leading up to his arrest from his home Thursday night.
He first learned of the other Jean Chery about two weeks before, he said. After training to become a security guard, Chery received a letter from the security company Aug. 12.
The company said it had received criminal justice information that indicated Chery was ineligible for a security guard license. When he called to inquire, he was told there was a warrant for his arrest in New York.
It's not me, he said. "Is there any way to clarify this?"
Chery said he was told to get fingerprinted, and to send the document in for comparison.
He was arrested about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday after he parked his bus in a Publix shopping center to get something to eat. He said that when he left the store, he saw a police officer parked nearby and decided to ask him where he might be able to get copies of his fingerprints.
According to a police report, the officer took Chery's identification and ran his name. There was a match. A Jean Chery with a warrant out of New York.
The officer noted that Chery's birth date was different from the birth date on the warrant, the report said, but NYPD wanted police to hold Chery until they could confirm his identity through fingerprints.
Chery was arrested and put in handcuffs.
"It surprised me that they arrest me for something I didn't do," Chery said Thursday. "I've been working hard all my life. I fight and fight to have nothing on my record."
Chery was held in a Haines City police cell, then taken to Bartow and booked into Polk County jail, where he remained overnight.
Chery went to his first appearance about 12:30 p.m the next day. The judge told Chery he was being held for New York police because of an arrest warrant, he said. He was returned to jail. About 10 p.m. that night he was allowed to go home.