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Man sentenced to life in prison for violent bank extortion and robbery spree

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A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to life in prison for a violent bank extortion and robbery spree which included holding a teller and her child hostage while trying to rob a credit union in Elizabethton.

Federal judge Thomas Varlan sentenced 44-year-old Michael Benanti of Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, to serve four consecutive life sentences, plus an additional 155 years in prison.

In February, a jury in Knoxville found him guilty of masterminding the bank holdups. Evidence showed that in October 2015, a bank teller at Northeast Tennessee Community Credit Union in Elizabethton and her child were held at gunpoint. Prosecutors said Benanti forced the teller to go into the establishment and demanded cash, stating he would kill them if she did not. They were later released unharmed.

Benanti also is linked to crimes in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina.

A co-defendant in the crime spree pleaded guilty and is set for sentencing next month.

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