The husband of a woman who has been lost at sea for six months has changed his plea to charges that he stole over $100,000 in gold and silver coins.
Isabella Hellmann, Lewis Bennett’s wife of only a few months, vanished at sea in May during the couple’s belated honeymoon trip aboard Bennett’s catamaran. Isabella’s whereabouts remain a mystery, and Bennett filed a request to have his wife declared dead just days after the Coast Guard abandoned its search for the new mother, whose daughter was only nine months old when she disappeared.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Bennett was arrested in August on charges he stole six figures worth of gold and silver coins while working as a first mate on a ship called “Kitty R” in the Caribbean in 2016. He initially denied the charges, pleading not guilty, but the Palm Beach Post reports that he filed to change his plea earlier this month, which meant that he would not be going to trial on December 11 as previously expected.
And on Thursday, Bennett appeared in court to submit his guilty plea, and reportedly confessed to hauling the stolen coins. According to the Palm Beach Post, he will be sentenced in February. Prosecutors will reportedly ask a judge for a reduced sentence, though it is not clear why. Bennett will also face up to three years probation and a $250,000 fine. Additionally, the dual citizen of Australia and Great Britain could face deportation.
Bennett has not been charged in connection with his wife’s disappearance, but there have been indications throughout the course of the investigation that authorities are keeping an eye on him. In June, the FBI raided the Delray, Florida, condominium he shared with Isabella, and Bennett had taken his daughter to the UK, which he was free to do, before he was charged in the coin theft.
He returned to Florida in August for a meeting with his insurance agent regarding a claim on his wife’s estate, and was reportedly arrested outside of the building following the meeting. It is not clear if the meeting with the insurance agent was authentic.
Authorities have been very tight-lipped about the investigation, and have not identified Bennett as a person of interest.
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