Husband of Delray Beach Woman Missing at Sea Remains Behind Bars After Arrest by FBI

Lewis Bennett arrested in connection with theft of gold coins

The husband of a Delray Beach woman who went missing at sea while they were on a boating trip in May will remain in jail through the end of the week after a federal court hearing Tuesday.

Lewis Bennett, who was arrested by the FBI in connection with the May 2016 theft of about $100,000 in gold and silver coins, appeared for the first time in a Key West courtroom. He will be arraigned on Friday afternoon, at which time it will be determined whether he will get bail in the case.

The federal arrest complaint said the coins were stolen from a sailing vessel in St. Maarten, when Bennett was a crewmember on the vessel. Bennett filed a police report in St. Maarten concerning the stolen coins and flew back to Miami five days later, the complaint said.

Bennett and his wife, Isabella Hellmann, were on 40-foot catamaran sailing to Florida in May when she went missing. Authorities say Bennett told them he was sleeping when the boat struck something in the Florida Straits.

He told investigators that when he went above deck, he could not find his wife and the boat started taking on water. Bennett went into a life raft and used his emergency beacon, and was later found about 30 miles from the Bahamas.

The Coast Guard searched the area for Hellmann but she was never found.

According to the criminal complaint, Bennett had a number of personal items in the life raft, including a backpack that a Coast Guard swimmer said was "unusually heavy." The backpack wasn't searched, the complaint said.

When the life raft was searched, authorities discovered nine plastic tubes that were wrapped with clear tape and contained what appeared to be silver coins, the complaint said. There were 235 coins in the raft with a value of about $4,200, the complaint said.

In June, the FBI and Coast Guard executed a search warrant at Bennett's home and found 162 gold coins worth about $26,100, the complaint said.

The owner of the boat that was burglarized said the coins that Bennett had were the same ones that had been stolen, the complaint said.

Hellmann's sister, who didn't want her name used, said Bennett's arrest leads to more questions than answers.

"There's so many things in our mind that we don't know what to think or what to expect from him," she said.

Contact Us