Man Pleads Guilty to Bizarre Fake Bomb Bank Robbery | NECN
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Man Pleads Guilty to Bizarre Fake Bomb Bank Robbery

(Published Tuesday, March 1, 2016)

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

Brian Witham plead guilty to the attempted robbery of Achieve Financial Credit Union in New Britain before a judge in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Tuesday.

Whitman was accused of other attempted bank robbers in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. He pleaded guilty to most charges in the indictment but his attorney said some charges out of North Carolina may be dismissed. 

Whitman's attorney did not give any other comment. 

Last year in February, two masked men 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 exposives 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. 

"I'm very happy that (Yussman) is no longer a suspect," Valerie said. "Very relieved they caught the fellas."

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

The CEO of Achieve Financial Credit Union, Andrew J. Klimkoski, said he was "pleased that closure will now come" to the event that involved its CFO, Yussman and his family.

"The public will now know the truth that we have known all along, that Mr. Yussman had no involvement in the attempted robbery and he will be vindicated by having his reputation restored in the court of public opinion," Klimkoski said. 

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