The family of Don Lewis is speaking out — and offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the 60-year-old millionaire and animal sanctuary owner who mysteriously vanished more than 20 years ago.
Lewis vanished on August 18, 1997. Deputies found his van abandoned at a nearby airport, where he had allegedly planned to take a trip to Costa Rica. Police found no signs of a struggle inside — nor did they find proof that Lewis ever left the country.
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Investigators continue to look at the case, and have reinterviewed Lewis’ then wife Carole Baskin, a big-cat activist and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit animal sanctuary based near Tampa, Florida.
The case reentered the spotlight earlier this year after the release of Netflix’s seven-episode series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness about the long-running rivalry between Baskin and Joe Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” the now-imprisoned big-cat enthusiast.
In the show, Exotic accused Baskin of being responsible for Lewis’ disappearance and feeding her husband to the tigers after murdering him. (Baskin has denied having anything to do with it.)
Since the show aired, an army of online true-crime enthusiasts have speculated about what could have happened to Lewis.
In June, the sheriff declared that the will of Don Lewis was forged. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister alleged to reporters that two different experts have deemed Lewis’ will “100 percent a forgery,” but that the statute of limitations for forgery had already expired.
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In a press conference on Monday morning, Lewis’ daughters and their team spoke out to announce a new $100,000 reward for information leading to answers in the case.
“There’s $100k sitting on the table. It’s set up for someone to come forward and say, ‘here’s what I know. I want the hundred grand, and I want immunity, and I’ll tell you what happened,’” said Jack Smith, a family spokesperson.
Carole Baskin did not immediately return PEOPLE’s call for comment, but reportedly spoke out to 8 On Your Side in an email. “I believe it is a publicity stunt orchestrated by Jack Smith to bolster his YouTube views,” she wrote, “but I do hope that all of the attention from Tiger King and the aftermath will result in us finding Don.”
Lewis’s youngest daughter, Gale Rathbone, told reporters on Monday that she just wants closure.
“We’re grateful for the outpouring of support we have received,” she said. “Our family tragedy has become your tragedy. Our search for truth has become your mission, too.”
“We’re asking that anyone with vital information come forward so that progress can be made on this case,” Rathbone continued. “I still to this day miss my dad. I love my dad. For 23 years, I’ve gone to bed each night knowing that the only chance of seeing him again is in my dreams. I hope that someday we – and you too – will know the truth and know what will happen to him.”
DOJ, IRS Investigating Crypto Exchange Binance
Binance Holdings Ltd. is facing a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Officials specializing in tax and money-laundering investigations are probing the world’s largest crypto exchange, according to the report.
Binance operates a sprawling global empire of crypto trading, including derivatives, which are essentially barred from the U.S. market. The Binance brand has attempted to project itself as above-board through recent regulatory hires including former U.S. senator Max Baucus. Former banking regulator Brian Brooks was installed as CEO of Binance’s U.S. affiliate last month.
“We take our legal obligations very seriously and engage with regulators and law enforcement in a collaborative fashion,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement. “We have worked hard to build a robust compliance program that incorporates anti-money laundering principles and tools used by financial institutions to detect and address suspicious activity.”
She declined to comment on the reported investigation.
Binance CEO “CZ” Changpeng Zhao commented on the Bloomberg article in a tweet:
The CDC director just gave us a dark coronavirus warning
The latest coronavirus update for the US through mid-morning on Thursday shows that, according to the latest data collected by the team at Johns Hopkins University, more than 28.7 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the US since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, the coronavirus death toll in the US was approaching 519,000 as of the time of this writing.
Nevertheless, two states created an uproar this week when both states (Texas and Mississippi) announced their decision to pull back restrictions and mandates imposed during the pandemic, like max capacity requirements for businesses and statewide face mask rules. President Biden criticized these moves as the product of “Neanderthal thinking,” while CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky actually went farther than that — warning during a White House press briefing this week that the US could lose all of the progress made thus far as a result of the spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants. Spread that would be helped even more by states like these and others that join them pulling back on their coronavirus-related public safety measures too soon.
“Please hear me clearly,” Dr. Walensky said. “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and to our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know could stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
While there has been a degree of promising news coverage in recent days and weeks, make no mistake: We’re still very much in the middle of a dangerous pandemic. COVID-19 cases, as well as related deaths, are up about 2% compared to last week — and we’re now averaging around 67,000 coronavirus cases per day, along with some 2,000 deaths each day.
Along these lines, and related to the Texas and Mississippi news, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb had an important insight to share in a CNBC interview this week — namely, that governments and public health experts need to start talking to people about the end of the pandemic and how we get there. Else, we’ll see more people go down this same road, either by feeling like things are hopeless or prematurely easing up on safety measures. “If we continue to be very prescriptive and not give people a realistic vision for a better future, they’re going to start to ignore the public health guidance,” Gottlieb said.
Walensky continued her remarks by noting that an average of less than 70,000 coronavirus cases a day seems good compared to where we were a few months ago. But we “cannot be resigned” to that.
“Please stay strong in your conviction, continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work,” she said. “Ultimately, vaccination is what will bring us out of this pandemic. To get there, we need to vaccinate many more people.”
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