Knoxville jury convicts man in multistate bank-hostage cases

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A federal jury in Knoxville has convicted a Pennsylvania man of charges connected to a multistate bank robbery-kidnapping spree.

The Knoxville News Sentinel ( ) reports 44-year-old Michael Benanti of Lake Harmony, Pa., was convicted of 23 charges, including conspiracy to commit bank extortion, and kidnapping, carjacking and extortion. Benanti faces more than 300 years in prison and will be sentenced July 25.

The case involved kidnappings of three East Tennessee bank-connected families as well as an attempted kidnapping and a bank robbery in Pennsylvania, kidnapping of a Connecticut bank employee and his mother and a grocery store robbery in North Carolina.

Benanti’s partner, 46-year-old Brian Witham, was given a plea deal that caps his sentence at 42 years. Benanti denied involvement, and defense lawyers tried to convince jurors that Witham was lying.