The husband of a woman lost at sea in May has been arrested on charges he stole $100,000 worth of coins.
The Palm Beach Post reports that Lewis Bennett, husband of Isabella Hellmann, was arrested this week in West Palm Beach on charges that he stole six figures worth of gold and silver coins while working as a first mate on a ship in the Caribbean last year. Bennett has not been charged with any crime in connection with his wife’s disappearance.
The latest development in the bizarre case comes more than three months after Hellmann, 41, vanished in the Atlantic ocean in mid-May while purportedly on a delayed honeymoon trip with her husband of three months. The couple had a nine-month daughter at the time Hellmann vanished, and were married in February of this year.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Bennett told investigators that he had been sleeping below deck and was awakened by the sensation of the catamaran hitting something in the water. When he went topside to investigate, he saw that his wife was no longer where he had last seen her and said the boat was taking water. He sent out an emergency signal and escaped on a life raft.
The Coast Guard rescued Bennett hours later and launched a search for Hellmann which was suspended after a few days with no sign of the new mother. Authorities have been tight-lipped about the investigation, but the FBI was seen raiding the couple’s Delray, Florida, condominium in June. The FBI reportedly questioned Bennett as a person of interest shorty after Hellmann vanished but he has not been charged or named a suspect in connection with her disappearance. He reportedly asked that Hellmann be declared dead just days after she went missing.
According to a federal complaint obtained by the Palm Beach Post, Bennett was working as a crew member on a ship called Kitty R in May 2016 when the ship’s owner said thousands of dollars of gold coins went missing. Bennett himself filed a police report about the missing coins, but reportedly said they were stolen on days he was not working on the boat. It is not clear from the Palm Beach Post report if Bennett is accused only of stealing the coins on the Kitty R or if he may have stolen additional coins.
The report reveals new details about the morning Hellmann disappeared: When the Coast Guard reached Bennett on his life raft, he reportedly had a suitcase and two backpacks with him on the raft. But Bennett only took one backpack with him when he was removed from the raft. A member of the Coast Guard reportedly noted that it was “unusually heavy.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Bennett posted a Facebook update in June saying that he was taking his daughter to be with his family in England, where he has dual citizenship. (He is also an Australian citizen.) He later removed the Facebook post after commenters began questioning his involvement in his wife’s disappearance and presumed death. It is not certain if and when Bennett did go to England, and the Palm Beach Post report does not indicate where his daughter is now. As CrimeOnline reported, Hellmann’s family in Florida had begged Bennett to keep the couple’s infant daughter in the United States, but he refused.
Bennett is scheduled to appear in federal court in Key West on Tuesday.
Feature photo: Facebook