October 12, 2017

The government plans on appraising valuable gold and silver coins they allege were stolen by a man rescued at sea in May while his wife went missing. 

FBI agents arrested Lewis Bennett — who has dual citizenship in England and Australia with a home in Delray Beach — in August amid allegations he stole thousands of dollars in gold and silver coins while working as a mate aboard the Kitty R sailboat in St. Maarten in May 2016.

That arrest came after his May 15 Coast Guard rescue off Cay Sal, Bahamas in which his wife, Isabella Hellman, 41, also of Delray Beach, went missing. She has yet to be found.

Bennett has not been charged with a crime regarding Hellman’s disappearance.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office published a list of the evidence they plan on sharing with Bennett and his attorney in which they state that “an appraisal of the coins … is pending.”

Previous court records released by the government states the 235 coins found when Bennett was rescued — 158 English “Year of the Horse” silver coins and 77 Canadian Maple Leaf coins are worth more than $4,000. 

Agents then raided Bennett’s Delray Beach home in June and found another 162 coins, records state.

The value of all the coins collected by the FBI and the Coast Guard Investigative Service is unclear, but they appear to be worth thousands, according to official documents.

Court records filed regarding the coin theft do not mention Hellman’s missing status or if foul play is suspected in her disappearance.

Court paperwork filed by the investigating FBI agent states that Bennett himself filed a police report on May 8, 2016 that the coins had gone missing from the sailboat on which he was working. The owner of the sailboat and coins later told police they had a total value of $100,000, reports state.

They are not treasure coins but rather commemorative coins. The English Year of the Horse coins were the first in the Lunar Coin or Shengxiào Collection launched in 2014 by the British Royal Mint featuring contemporary designs of the animals in the Chinese zodiac. According to APMEX, an online coin dealer, they are worth between $25-34 each. The same website has Canadian Maple Leaf coins ranging in price from $20 to the thousands, depending on the mint. 

alinhardt@keysnews.com