TAMPA, Fla. (TCD) --
A 76-year-old Florida man who eluded authorities for 44 years after being convicted of violent sex crimes was captured and charged with passport fraud and identity theft last Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.
Clearwater, Fla. resident Douglas E. Bennett is accused of applying for a U.S. passport in July 2016 using the name, date of birth and Social Security number of a person who died in 1945. But investigators learned Bennett was wanted in Connecticut for a sex-crimes prison sentence he never served.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Bennett was convicted in 1975 by a Connecticut jury of robbery, kidnapping, sexual contact, rape, and deviate sexual intercourse, and was sentenced to nine to 18 years in Connecticut State Prison.
Bennett never turned himself in to serve his sentence, and in 1977, he allegedly took the identity of the unidentified person who died in 1945, and became a fugitive -- until he was arrested on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
Bennett was arrested on federal and Connecticut state warrants, and a fingerprint match confirmed his real identity, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Bennett had a Florida driver's license on him. The license listed the false-identity information next to Bennett's own picture.
If convicted of the fraud and identity theft charges, he faces a maximum penalty of 12 years in federal prison.
The Hartford Courant reports Bennett is a former Mount Holyoke College drama instructor.
A U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service special agent investigating passport fraud tracked Bennett to his home in Clearwater. The Courant reports the stolen identity belongs to a 5-year-old boy who died near the college in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1945.
Bennett was convicted for violently attacking a 22-year old Wethersfield woman in her home, and then in a car with an accomplice, on Valentine’s Day in 1974. An accomplice was never charged, the Courant reports. Bennett had been freed from custody after posting a $25,000 appeal bond and disappeared in 1976 after losing the appeal.
The Miami Herald reports after the passport was issued, prosecutors said the death certificate raised a red flag during an audit for passport fraud. Investigators traced the real identity of the applicant to Bennett using the name of the person he listed as an emergency contact: his sister. Her 1982 obituary identified her as Bennett’s sister, which led investigators to find his criminal record and his 1976 disappearance.