The husband of a Florida woman who has been lost at sea since May had left the country not long after her disappearance but returned to the United States for an interview with an insurance company before he was arrested on theft charges.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Lewis Bennett was arrested last week on charges that he stole tens of thousands of dollars worth of gold and silver coins when he was working as a first mate on a ship in May 2016. His wife of three months, Isabella Hellmann, 41, has been lost at sea since May of this year when the couple went on a belated honeymoon sailing trip. There has been no sign of her since then, and Bennett reportedly asked the Coast Guard to declare her dead just days after she purportedly vanished from their catamaran while Bennett says he was sleeping below deck.
WBPF News reports that Bennett had in fact left the United States for England in June as he indicated in a Facebook post that has since been deleted. Bennett reportedly returned to Florida to meet with an insurance company regarding a claim connected to his wife’s disappearance and possible death.
According to the news station, the FBI was waiting for Bennett outside of the insurance office in West Palm Beach on Monday, and took him into custody on charges of transporting stolen goods. The insurance company had given him the option of conducting the interview via Skype, but he chose to attend in person.
WBPF also confirmed that Bennett had some of the stolen coins with him on his life raft when the Coast Guard rescued him on May 15. Bennett told authorities that he was woken to the sound of his boat hitting something in the water, and saw that his wife was gone when he went to check on her. He claimed the boat was taking water, made emergency call, and escaped on a life raft with the coins and additional luggage. At the time, authorities did not realize Bennett was allegedly carrying stolen goods.
The FBI reportedly found additional gold coins during a raid of the couple’s Delray condo in June. Bennett and Hellman lived there with their one-year-old daughter, who Bennett took with him to England to be with his family. He is a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Australia.
It is unclear exactly where the couple’s daughter is at this time, though Bennett reportedly brought her with him to Florida, where Isabella’s family lives.
Bennett will remain in custody until a bond hearing on Friday.
Feature photo: Facebook