A convicted rapist who used a stolen identity to avoid prison for more than 40 years was arrested Wednesday, federal authorities said.
76-year-old Douglas Bennett was taken into custody at his Florida home on charges of passport fraud and aggravated identity theft 44 years after he went on the run to escape a prison sentence for a 1975 rape conviction, federal prosecutors said in a statement Thursday.
The former Mount Holyoke College instructor was sentenced up to 18 years in state prison for attacking a 22-year-old woman on Valentine’s Day in 1974, according to the Hartford Courant. Bennett maintained his innocence and one of his attorneys said Bennett would have been cleared in an appeal, the Courant continued. (RELATED: It Turns Out Bill Clinton And Jeffrey Epstein Have More Than Sexual Allegations In Common)
A man convicted of rape, kidnapping and robbery avoided serving time for the crimes for more than 40 years until federal agents caught him living under an assumed identity in Clearwater. https://t.co/Pr7e77j0qt
— FOX 13 Tampa Bay (@FOX13News) November 6, 2020
Bennett lost his 1976 appeal in the state Supreme court, before becoming a fugitive. He allegedly assumed the identity of a person who had died in 1945, according to the prosecutors’ statement.
Bennett applied for a passport application under the new identity in July 2016. A fingerprint comparison verified that Bennett is the same person convicted of rape in 1975, according to the statement.
When he was arrested, Bennett had a driver’s license with false information, but with his own picture.
One of Bennett’s neighbors told FOX13 it was a shock to learn of Bennett’s true identity.
“It was mind-blowing,” said Vince Stegura, Bennett’s next-door neighbor, per the FOX affiliate. “So I knew him as like a sailor from the Northeast, and he told me that he traveled the world sailing.”
“It’s very scary, you know, because we were none the wiser. He was older, though, so he was less of a threat, I think, but it’s scary that justice could have been served a long time ago,” Stegura said.
If convicted, Bennett faces a maximum of 12 years in prison.