A new two-hour “Dateline” on Friday will focus on the bank heists by Michael Benanti and Brian Witham, two men who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of their roles in a violent bank extortion and robbery spree in four states and several cities, including Oak Ridge and Knoxville, NBC News said this week.
Oak Ridge Today covered the case, and the Knoxville News Sentinel had extensive coverage.
Here is the official listing and preview link:
All-New A Villainous Plan Airs May 3rd at 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT
A Connecticut bank executive is targeted by a crew of criminals who invade his home, take him and his mother hostage and order him to rob his own bank. If he doesn’t commit the crime, they threaten to blow him up with a bomb strapped to his waist. Investigators think it looks like an inside job but after a string of similar crimes in Tennessee, they learn the victims were picked based on social media posts. Dennis Murphy reports.
The broadcast marks the first of three consecutive all-new two-hour Dateline on Fridays.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://nbcnews.to/2DIBHRV
Oak Ridge Today reported in July 2017 that Benanti, of Pennsylvania, was sentenced in Knoxville to four consecutive life sentences in federal prison, plus an additional 155 years, for his convictions involving the violent bank extortion and robbery spree.
Benanti, who was then 45, had been convicted by a jury after a trial in U.S. District Court in February 2017. The jury found him guilty 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.
Witham, who was then 47 and was from Maine, pleaded guilty in March 2016.
Benanti and Witham were indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2015. They were accused of kidnapping family members and robbing or attempting to rob three banks and credit unions in Oak Ridge, Knoxville, and Elizabethton. The Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge was one of the three financial institutions that was targeted.
Besides Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge on April 28, 2015, the other two financial institutions targeted in the armed extortion attempts in East Tennessee in 2015 were SmartBank on Advantage Place in Knoxville and Northeast Community Credit Union on Jason Witten Way in Elizabethton, according to prosecutors.
The extortion plots were reported to have involved attacking bank officials and their families, including children, at their homes and holding them hostage.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Most news stories on Oak Ridge Today are free, brought to you by Oak Ridge Today with help from our advertisers, contributors, and subscribers. This is a free story. Thank you to our advertisers, contributors, and subscribers. You can see what we cover here.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2019 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.