KNOXVILLE, Tenn — A man involved in a bizarre bank robbery in 2015 has been sentenced to four life sentences plus 155 years in prison.
Michael Anthony Benanti, 45, of Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to serve four consecutive life sentences plus an additional 155 years to be served consecutively in federal prison for his convictions involving a violent bank extortion and robbery spree spanning through Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Tennessee.
A jury convicted Benanti of one count of conspiracy to commit robbery and armed bank extortion, two counts of attempted armed bank extortion, one count of armed bank extortion, three counts of carjacking, three counts of kidnapping, three counts of being a previously-convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and 10 counts of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
The Connecticut part of the ordeal began on February 23, 2015. Around 8 a.m. a home invasion was reported in Bristol, the home of Matthew Yussman. Yussman is the CFO of the Achieve Financial Credit Union in New Britain.
Shortly after the home invasion was reported, police found an adult male in a car in the parking lot of the Achieve Financial Credit Union at 450 West Main St. in New Britain. SWAT, bomb squads, the FBI and several local police officers responded and found Yussman with what appeared to be an explosive device strapped to him.
Yussman told officers that multiple attackers broke into his home earlier and attached the device to him, and also attached a similar device to his mother, who was also home during the attack. He said he was then ordered to go to the credit union and clean out the vault. He called the bank’s CEO on his way and told him what was going on, The CEO alerted authorities.
It was later determined the explosive devices were fake, but they were made to look very real with an antenna and cell phone receptors. While determining if they devices were real, the investigation caused the entire area to be closed off for several hours that February day.
“I knew they were still out there and I figured they were trying this somewhere else until they got caught,” said Yussman.
Brian Scott Witham, 47, of Waterville, Maine, also charged in the case, pleaded guilty in March 2016. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 17, 2017, in U.S District Court in Knoxville.
Witham’s co-defendant, Michael Benanti, 43, of Pennsylvania, is also charged in connection to several of the robberies, though the U.S. Attorney’s Office says it can’t comment on if he was involved in the Connecticut incident. Police did initially say there were two suspects in the crime.