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.READ MORE: Local parents respond strongly following Texas school shooting
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.READ MORE: Affordable broadband expansion in Fulton County
CW44 News At 10 will provide further details as they become available.
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