Convicted rapist, kidnapper living under false ID in Clearwater evades sentence for 40 years

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.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said federal investigators arrested Douglas Bennett, 76, at his house in Clearwater on Wednesday and charged him with passport fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to a complaint filed in federal court, investigators discovered Bennett’s true identity after he tried to renew a passport in 2016 under a false name.

Bennett’s neighbors were surprised to find out the man they thought they knew was charged with living a lie.

“It was mind-blowing,” said Vince Stegura, Bennett’s next-door neighbor. “So I knew him as like a sailor from the Northeast, and he told me that he traveled the world sailing.”

Investigators said Bennett lived in a house on Chateau Drive under a different identity for decades.

About 40 years went by before Bennett’s past caught up with him. A federal complaint said Bennett applied to renew a passport in 2016, but workers found the name and Social Security number belonged to a 5-year-old child who died in 1945.

As they looked further into the application, federal agents discovered he was convicted of raping, kidnapping and robbing a woman in Connecticut in 1975. At that time, Bennett made bail -- pending an appeal -- and then never to serve his nine-to-18-year sentence after his conviction was affirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Now he's back in jail, all these years later.

“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,” said Stegura.

A Connecticut newspaper said Bennett was a former college drama teacher at the time of the crimes. He’s in the Pinellas County jail on fraud charges and waiting on marshals for the crimes up north.