Bizarre Fake Bomb Bank Robbery Plea

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A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to the home invasion and botched robbery that ended with a fake bomb strapped to an executive at a New Britain, Connecticut, bank.

Michael Benanti was sentenced to four life sentences, plus an additional 155 years, for his conviction involving a violent bank extortion and robbery spree spanning four states. 

He was convicted 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 ten counts of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence

Last year in February, two masked men, Benanti and Brian Whitman, broke into a credit union manager’s home in Bristol, strapped a fake explosive device to Matthew Yussman, a 46-year-old bank manager, and tied his mom to a bed, authorities said.

Yussman had been under investigation since he was found outside the Achieve Financial Credit Union in New Britain on Feb. 23, 2015, strapped with what appeared to be an explosive device.

“For the whole year, they treated my son more as a suspect than as a victim,” Yussman’s mother, Valerie Yussman told NBC Connecticut in an exclusive interview. “I no longer believe what they say, ‘you’re innocent until proven guilty’, you are guilty until proven innocent.”

Yussman’s 70-year-old mother described finding her son face down in the garage at their Bristol home with his hands tied. She allegedly overheard two assailants saying they owed money and would kill Yussman and his mother if they didn’t pay up.

“I heard them talk about explosives and I heard them taping it to my son,” Valerie Yussman recalled about the night of the invasion. “I worried that, you know, would my son feel the bomb if it went off?”

Police said the intruders demanded Yussman drive them to Achieve Financial Credit Union in New Britain and empty the vault, but eventually the suspects fled with nothing.

Shortly after the incident, FBI started to investigate the case. 

Tennessee investigators said 45-year-old Witham and 43-year-old Benanti committed similar crimes in their state: multiple attempts to extort money from federal credit union employees by taking family members hostage.

Witham, of Waterville, Maine, also charged in the case, pleaded guilty in March 2016. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 17, 2016, in U.S District Court in Knoxville.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia and South Carolina

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