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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Michael Anthony Benanti Sentenced to Serve Four Consecutive Life Sentences Plus 155 Years in Prison for Violent Bank Extortion and Robbery Spree Spanning Through Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On July 18, 2017, Michael Anthony Benanti, 45, of Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, was sentenced by the Honorable Thomas A. Varlan, Chief U.S. District Court Judge, 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 four states.


After a trial in February 2017, 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.


“Often, severe federal penalties, such as mandatory minimum sentences, are the most effective tool to protect the American public from a violent criminal like Benanti. The consecutive sentences received by Benanti for firearms violations ensure he will never again be able to victimize families in east Tennessee or elsewhere. The U.S. Attorney’s office is and remains committed to prosecuting these crimes and seeking the highest penalties possible to help keep the American people safe,” said Nancy Harr, U.S. Attorney.


Special Agent in Charge Renae McDermott of the Knoxville Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated, “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that the FBI is committed to investigating and pursuing prosecution of those who engage in a pattern of illegal activity. It is also one example of the close working relationship the FBI has with our law enforcement partners.”


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.


Agencies involved in this investigation included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, and South Carolina. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David P. Lewen, Jr., Kelly A. Norris, and Steven H. Cook represented the United States.




Firearms Offenses
Sharry Dedman-Beard Public Information Officer 865-225-1671
Updated July 18, 2017