In the summer of 2016, the Department of State Passport Services received a suspicious renewal application from a resident in Clearwater, Florida.
While checking the details on the submitted form an agent of the National Passport Centre Fraud Program made a strange discovery- the social security number the individual had provided was that of a 5-year-old boy who had died in Holyoke Massachusetts in 1945. After obtaining the child’s death certificate they were able to confirm that the social security number assigned to the deceased child was the very same the Florida man had written on his renewal form. Investigators figured out the man’s real identity through a listed contact he had named on the application, his real sister, they did a background check on the woman and found her maiden name, leading them to her brother.
A background check on the fraudster revealed he was a fugitive on the run from the law and the man had unwittingly lead law enforcement to himself by providing the name of his sister as the emergency contact on his passport application.
Police found themselves at a house on Chateau Drive, Clearwater arresting the man who had been, according to an article published in the Tampa Bay Times on November 5, 2020, living under the alias Gordon D. Ewen for almost 45 years. He had on his person a Florida driving license bearing the same false alias that he had been living under for over four decades. Investigation into the man’s real identity revealed him to be a Mr. Douglas E. Bennett; a 76-year-old ex-drama instructor who once taught at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s private liberal arts college located in the South Hadley area of Massachusetts.
He still had a warrant out for his arrest.
They confirmed Bennett’s identity using a previous mugshot, passport photo and fingerprints and arrested him for aggravated identity theft as well as passport fraud.
His mugshot from 1974 depicts a sombre looking, clean-shaven Caucasian male in his early thirties dressed in a striped shirt and tie and large glasses. According to various articles online, Bennett had applied for and was granted a passport in 1984 using his alias and false details, his passport photo shows the same man, older with facial hair and the same style of eyeglasses. The most recent passport application continues the theme- a striped buttoned shirt, and eyeglasses on an elderly man with a white beard.
On Valentine’s day of 1974 an angry Mr. Bennett turned up on the doorstep of his employer. He concealed his identity with a mask and armed himself with a handgun before knocking on the door. When his employer’s daughter answered he held the gun to her head and demanded to know where her father was, ranting that he was owed money for a job he did. It would later be revealed that the amount he was owed was just a little over $100.
When she informed him that her father wasn’t home Bennett turned his attention to the 22-year-old woman, tying her up with rope and covering her eyes with tape before robbing her and raping her multiple times. Despite being blindfolded throughout the process she was able to see her attacker during the ordeal and managed to describe him to police. She was also able to identify what the perpetrator was wearing, a navy-blue parker jacket that Bennett was known to wear regularly. He would later deny any part in the crimes that took place that day and insisted that they had misidentified him and that the real killer was out there somewhere.
Despite being represented by F. Lee Bailey, an attorney at the time who notoriously went on to represent O.J Simpson in his 1995 trial, Bennett was found guilty of robbery, rape, deviate sexual intercourse and sexual contact in the state of Massachusetts. He was sentenced to 18 years in a Massachusetts correctional-facility but skipped town when he was on bail assuming a new identity in 1977 and moving to Florida where he bought a house under his new name in the mid-nineties. He told acquaintances and neighbours that he was a well-travelled sailor hailing from the North and told tales of his adventures around the world.
According to an article published in the Hartford Courant in 1975, titled: Sex offender Sentenced, Bennett posted his bond immediately. Although his attorney F. Lee Bailey voiced his plans to seek a new trial for which he claimed he would come armed with new evidence, Bennett took the opportunity to escape.
He now faces a potential extra 12 years jail time on top of the time given for his previous crimes. Although it is believed that he has not committed any crimes since, the judge denied Bennett’s request for bail and he is currently being held in a Connecticut jail.
A recently filed criminal complaint describes the details of the events in 1974:
“8. The Supreme Court of Connecticut issued an opinion stating BENNETT was convicted on January 3, 1975 of robbery, kidnapping, sexual contact, rape and two counts of deviate sexual intercourse. The facts presented at jury trial were that the victim was confronted by BENNETT who was carrying a handgun and wearing a mask, while she was home alone on February 14, 1974.
He forced his way into the house, looking for the victim's father. She was robbed of cash, had her hands tied behind her back, covered her eyes with tape, dragged outside, disrobed, and sexually assaulted by BENNETT. He forced her into a car where she was again raped and sexually abused by BENNETT and his companion for over an hour. Despite BENNETT's appeal, the Supreme Court of Connecticut affirmed his convictions. BENNETT was required to begin his sentence on May 24, 1976, however, he never reported to serve his sentence. An active arrest warrant exists in relation to those charges.”
A recent video shows Bennet being booked, with a rolled document clasped in his cuffed hands and a surgical mask on his face amidst the recent pandemic. He has been denied bail and could serve up to 12 more years for fraud on top of his other charges.