CLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – A man convicted of rape in Connecticut skipped prison, assumed the identity of a deceased 5-year-old boy and lived freely for decades in Clearwater – until he attempted to renew his passport.
United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced Thursday, the arrest and filing of a criminal complaint charging Douglas E. Bennett (76, Clearwater) with passport fraud and aggravated identity theft. Bennett was arrested on November 4, 2020. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 12 years in federal prison.
According to the complaint, in or around July 2016, Bennett submitted a passport application using the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of a 5-year-old boy who had died in 1945. When applying for this passport, Bennett failed to disclose his true identity.
In 1975, Bennett was convicted by a jury in Connecticut of robbery, kidnapping, sexual contact, rape, and deviate sexual intercourse. He was sentenced to 9 – 18 years in Connecticut State Prison. Bennett, however, never turned himself in to begin his sentence. According to a newspaper report, Bennett insisted he was innocent and one of his attorneys, F. Lee Bailey, claimed he would be cleared via appeal, citing new evidence and the results of a lie detector test. Records show, in 1977, he assumed the identity of the individual who had died in 1945 and remained a fugitive for more than 40 years.
On November 4, 2020, Bennett was arrested pursuant to both the federal and State of Connecticut warrants. A fingerprint comparison confirmed that Bennett was the same person convicted in Connecticut in 1975. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of a Florida driver license bearing the false identifying information, but containing Bennett’s photograph.
A complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
CW44 News At 10 will provide further details as they become available.
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