Crime

His alibi: My twin brother did it. Miami judge’s verdict: Back to jail with that baloney.

Attorney Jonathan Meltz speaks to his client Raul Prado, who claims he was wrongfully arrested under the identity of his twin brother, in court at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018.
Attorney Jonathan Meltz speaks to his client Raul Prado, who claims he was wrongfully arrested under the identity of his twin brother, in court at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. adiaz@miamiherald.com

As far as crime alibis go, it was bizarre, even by Miami’s lofty standards. A guy arrested by Miami-Dade cops as a fugitive on the lam from a Georgia prison insisted they’d grabbed the wrong twin.

His brother Raul Prado was the crook, said the man, who insisted he was actually a law-abiding twin named Jean Prado.

The elaborate yarn failed the fingerprint test, among other things, and on Tuesday a Miami judge ordered the man, Raul Prado, sent back to the Georgia prison. As for good twin Jean, there’s no evidence that he actually exists.

Circuit Judge Richard Hersch called Raul Prado’s testimony “incredible and at times inherently inconsistent.”

The strange tale has played out in Miami-Dade criminal court in a series of court hearings over the past two months.

Raul Prado is a marijuana trafficker who was serving a 25-year prison sentence in Georgia when he escaped from a work detail. Authorities announced he’d been captured only one day later 600 miles away in Miami.

In a story first reported by the Miami Herald, the man arrested in Miami-Dade claimed he was actually Jean Prado, a former Cuban military fighter-jet pilot who had spent most of the last few decades living in Mexico.

“You don’t get one of these every day,” Judge Hersch said at a hearing on Oct. 12. “Your case really presents a puzzle, Mr. Prado.”

Prado testified that he had crossed illegally into the United States several times over years, and had been using his imprisoned brother’s ID when he was arrested by Miami-Dade Police. Because he was an exile, he could not return to Cuba to obtain birth records, Prado said.

“He has lived his life ... as a free spirit, a drifter and a hippie-like traveler,” his lawyer, Jonathan Meltz, told the judge. “No home, no car, no Instagram, no worldly possessions and unlike most people, no United States ID.”

As proof, Prado also offered a Mexican ID, supposedly sent to him by a girlfriend in Mexico. But his defense lawyer could not offer any evidence that the ID card was actually legit.

Prado offered an old photo of him supposedly with his twin brother, Raul. But Raul Prado also has two other non-twin brothers, and no relatives chose to testify to support his claims. The inmate also refused to identify the relatives he was staying with in Miami.

There was also this compelling forensic evidence that the good twin tale was pure fiction: Prosecutor Fleur Lobree submitted fingerprint records showing a match between the man in Miami-Dade custody and Raul Prado, the Georgia fugitive. A fingerprint analyst “testified that twins do not have identical fingerprints,” the judge wrote.

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