Ruling awaited in Tennessee bank extortions case

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The FBI and a Pennsylvania man accused in a series of bank extortions are awaiting a ruling in federal court on the legality of search warrants in the case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley hasn’t said when he might rule in the case against 43-year-old Michael Benanti of Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania. The Knoxville News Sentinel ( ) reports Shirley said after a hearing last week that finding the first search warrant bad would make all of them bad.

Benanti is charged in a 23-count indictment accusing him of kidnappings, carjackings, bank robbery and extortions. The charges arise from an alleged plot with co-defendant Brian Witham to kidnap bank executives and their families and forcing them to withdraw money from their banks.

One of the kidnappings occurred in Knoxville, one in Oak Ridge and one in Elizabethton.