Pocono Man Accused of Violent Bank Robberies in Tennessee

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Authorities in two states say a string of violent bank robberies were planned and committed by a man from the Poconos.

Michael Benanti of Lake Harmony was arrested last month in North Carolina for those bank robberies in Tennessee.

And this isn't his first run-in with the law.

Michael Benanti of Lake Harmony is accused of a series of violent bank robberies in Tennessee.

It was following a car chase with police in North Carolina on November 25 that Benanti and a man from Maine were nabbed by authorities.

Both are being held responsible for three bank robberies in Tennessee that took place in April, July and October.

Alexander Gourgiotis of Pocono Summit has known Benanti for several years.

“I find the allegations distressing. I am very upset about it,” said Gourgiotis.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Knoxville, Tennessee says that in April, Benanti and his partner kidnapped a credit union employee and his family at gunpoint, drove them to the credit union and forced the employee to withdraw money.

They dropped off their victims then drove away.

Then in July, the pair allegedly did it again, kidnapping a SmartBank employee and his family, taking them to the bank and forcing him to take money out.

Again they got away.

Then in October, another credit union employee told police he was threatened with violence if he did not take out money.

Benanti has already served time in federal prison.

In 1992, Benanti was arrested in Lackawanna County for operating a burglary ring.

“For Michael to do something like this, he had to be something either he was desperate or he was coerced, you know. It's an easy thing. Let's do it,” said Gourgiotis.

Gourgiotis still believes in his friend Michael.

Gourgiotis helped create a website when Benanti started a business called Prisoner Assistant which helps newly released offenders re-enter society.

“To me it's baffling,” said Gourgiotis. “Because I don't believe it. Alright, I know there was a car chase, they caught him in North Carolina, everything was done in Tennessee.”

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Benanti and the other man face a minimum sentence of 142 years in prison if they are convicted on all charges.

Newswatch 16 did try to contact Benanti's business, Prisoner Assistant, but all we got was voicemail.

1 Comment

  • john

    This guy gourgiotis sounds like a fool. Wish i could of been there to see his face when he sees this broadcast of himself znd how stupid he sounds.” He was desperate or coerced# HA HA! Benanti is a career criminal . On top of his old burglary ring charges, he was also charged with attempted hommicide charges for shooting at a dickson city cops. I dont know why this gourgiotis is so shocked”poor acting on his behalf. He is a criminal period . Ducks quack, dogs bark and criminals commit crimes. No shock value here.

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.