U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee
(865) 545-4167
December 16, 2015

Michael Anthony Benanti and Brian Scott Witham Indicted for Armed Bank Extortions

KNOXVILLE, TN—On Dec. 15, 2015, a federal grand jury returned a 15-count indictment against Michael Anthony Benanti, 43, of Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, and Brian Scott Witham, 45 of Waterville, Maine, for their involvement in armed bank extortions of the Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in April 2015; SmartBank in Knoxville, Tenn., in July 2015; and Northeast Community Credit Union in Elizabethton, Tenn., in October 2015.

After a vehicle pursuit, Benanti and Witham were arrested on Nov.25, 2015, in Buncombe County, N.C., by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, in conjunction with the Maggie Valley Police Department, Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.

The actual charges against Benanti and Witham were announced by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office at a press conference held earlier today and are contained in the indictment on file with U.S. District Court in Knoxville. A trial date has not yet been set. If convicted, both face minimum sentences of 142 years in prison, because federal law requires consecutive sentences for each of the firearms offenses charged in the indictment. As to any individual offense in the indictment, the district court could impose a sentence of up to life in prison.

The arrests and indictment of Benanti and Witham are the result of extensive cooperative efforts of numerous law enforcement agencies, including: Knoxville Police Department, Major Crimes Unit, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Major Crimes Unit, Oak Ridge Police Department, Elizabethton Police Department, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, North Caroline State Bureau of Investigation, Johnson City Police Department, Tennessee, Carter County Police Department, Tennessee, Asheville Police Department, North Carolina, Maggie Valley Police Department, North Carolina, Waynesville Police Department, North Carolina, Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina, FBI Asheville Resident Agency, North Carolina, along with the FBI Safe Streets Task Forces composed of officers from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department and Johnson City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Lewen and Greg Bowman represent the United States.

Members of the public are reminded that these are only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until his or her guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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