Lewis Bennett, 38, a British engineer, was recently arrested by the FBI on charges related to possession of stolen rare silver and gold coins. The story behind the arrest gets very strange, involving a Caribbean theft, a missing wife, and a sunken catamaran.
On May 14th, Bennett was sailing with his wife, Isabella Hellman from Cuba to Florida. They had married in February and were on a delayed honeymoon on their 37′ catamaran, Surf into Summer. They have a 9-month-old daughter who was not with them aboard the boat.
While in the Florida Straits, the boat sank, Hellman went missing and Bennett was rescued from a life raft by the US Coast Guard. He told his rescuers that he had been below asleep, with Hellman on watch on deck. He said that he was awoken when the catamaran hit something and began taking on water rapidly. When Bennet came on deck, he said that his wife was nowhere to be found. The Coast Guard searched for three days for Isabella Hellman without finding any trace of the missing woman.
The Coast Guard was able to retrieve Bennett’s life raft, where, in addition to gear and supplies, they found nine plastic tubes of silver coins, valued at roughly $4,200. The rescue swimmer who helped haul Bennett aboard the helicopter had commented that his backpack seemed unusually heavy. Initially, the coins were returned to Bennett. Then the Coast Guard learned that the coins may have been stolen from a yacht that Bennett was on in 2016. During a June 10 search of Bennett’s house, agents found another 162 gold coins estimated to be worth about $26,100.
In May of 2016, Bennett was crew aboard the yacht Kitty R in St. Martin, when reportedly $100,000 in rare gold and silver coins were stolen from the boat. According to court records, the owner of the boat and the coins said that he did not file an insurance claim because the coins were not “on the list of covered items in his policy.”
Bennett has been arrested on charges of transporting stolen goods valued at $5,000 or more.