tv Dateline Extra MSNBC December 25, 2020 11:00am-1:00pm PST
bombs. >> they said this is a c4 explosive and we're going to strap it to you. >> a guy is driving to a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest. >> they said we want $4.2 million in cash. >> families taken hostage sold to keep a crime or else. >> striking again -- >> she looks up and here is a guy with an assault rifle.
>> again and again. >> for every minute he was late his wife would lose a finger. >> a high stakes stalemate. a high speed car chase. >> he just hit a third vehicle. >> stop! >> how did the gun manno everything about their victims? their secret weapon could turn everyone into a potential target. >> they would find people on social media. be careful what you put out for the world to see. it is a mouse click away. >> it is a beautiful september day in the mountains of north caroli carolina. a beautiful stretch of
interstate. it started off as a rue teak traffic stop but it was anything but routine. then you see the passenger door open briefly, shut, and take off again. you see the vehicle swerve, and you see bracelets go on. >> he just hit a third vehicle. >> we start in 2016 with matt gusman, a chief financial officer.
>> i have been playing hockey for 30 something years. i play every week, sometimes twice a week, all summer long all winter long. >> money management pays his bills but hockey fuels his passion. he is a goalie for a team called the trash pandas. >> you play on sunday night? >> how did you do that night? >> we won but it was a late night game. >> matt's glow ended after he got home. he didn't know two men were watching. >> i would open the garage door, i took all of my equipment out. >> his mother was in the home they shared watching the academy awards. he moved into the house after his dad passed away. >> it was the night of the oscars and it didn't finish until midnight or a few minutes
after and after that i heard the garage door open. >> i was walking back to the car to pull it in and i see someone running down my drive way telling me to get down and he has a gun. he walks up and sticks the gun behind the back of the -- >> i waited for him to come into the house. >> i looked up and i see another guy running down the driveway. >> he says they were covered in multiple layers of heavy clothing, masks, and ski goggles. >> could you make out their faces? >> they had no distinguishing features. >> do you know their race?
>> no, everything was coved. >> one was tall and slender, one was heavy set. >> i saw him face down on the garage and two gunmen were holding guns over him. another one swung his gun at me and he said come down into the garage and kneel beside your son. i went down and i knelt beside my son and i said please don't hurt us. i said we will do whatever you want. >> mother and son quickly realized they were the victims of a home invasion. neighbors could not see what was happening because their ranch was set back far from the road on an isolated cul-de-sac. >> that was my whole thing was, you know what? take what you need. leave me, go, and i thought that was going to be the end of it. but it moves into the house.
>> he was tloedled to a couch. >> they put a hat over my head and duct taped it so i could not see. >> he never could have guessed what their plan for him really was. >> coming up, this was much more than just a home invasion. the gunmen say they have a problem and matt is the solution. >> we owe bad people money and you're going to get it for us. matt's mom was in danger, too. he said we're going to put a bomb under her bed and if you
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could hear something alarming. matt was on a couch, his hands zip tied, eyes covered. >> i tried to listen to what they were says that matthew. i don't know what is going on, and they said this is not a robbery. this is not a home invasion. >> by using a device like this, they were able to disguise their voices. >> it gave me the creeps, that sounds very similar to what they did. >> we're looking for a large sum of money, you're going to get it
for us. >> how much? >> they said we want $4.2 million in cash. >> there was something else unusually specific. they knew intimate details about his life. >> they knew where i worked and where i lived. >> he was hold he would go to his work and take $4.2 million out of the vault. he said they never have that much money but he could get them some. >> i said i can get you a million dollars. hours passed. mad says he sat tied up and blind folded. >> it was around 3:00 in the morning i think. they get me up and they say we're going for a ride. that was the second time i got
really scared. next they went into his mom's room and they told hershey was going to stay behind. they said it was a precaution so i would not go any place, and i sa said i will stay where you put me. i didn't try to get out because i thought if they should come back and i'm trying to get out, i didn't want them to shoot me or take it out. i stayed in the bed and cried and prayed. i just didn't want them to hurt my son. >> matt says he found himself in the back seat of one of the two vehicles he owns.
>> they put a pillow in the back, and they told me to put my face in the pillow and don't move. i heard snow mic we went off of the side of the road, and i was like what is going to happen here? are they going to put a bullet in my head? >> one of them got out of the suv. matt heard another suv and then they were back on the road. he was relieved to find himself back home. then according to matt they asked him an odd question. >> they asked me if i wanted to take a shower. >> a shower?
and i was thinking they must think that i smell or you know, they want me cleaned up, so i said sure, i will take a shower. >> a shower? after terrorizing him for three hours, how strange. what was going on. then he says he was let into the kitchen where something was waiting for him on the table. they said do you know what this is? i said no. they said it is c 4, we're going to strap a device to you because we don't trust you. a plastic explosive used by the military and terrorists. molded like clay into any shape and detonated remotely. >> they were putting something
around my stomastomach. i could see a baggy with clay and wires. hearing what was happening in the other room, matt's mom started to cry. >> i could hear them unwrapping lots and lots of dauct tape. i standards to cry harder. i'm thinking they're putting a bomb on them. matt was left alone, a bomb tightly around his waste. each minute seemed to last for an eternity. it was just before daylight, matt's mom says one of them came into her room and said something unexpected. >> he said i don't want you to be alarmed, but we're going to be using the vacuum.
>> they came in and i could hear them vacuuming in my living room, and then in the bedroom they were vacuuming around the bed and things. >> six hours into their or dede the sun was toon to rise. to ensure his cooperation, they said we're leaving an insurance policy in mom's bedroom. they said if you deviate from the plan we're going to detonate both of your bombs. matt says that included a threat to detonate his or his mom's bomb by cell phone at any time they wanted. at 10:00 a.m. they would text him the location of where to drop off the money. that was less than three hours
away. >> at some point they came over to me and they said "it is time." they bring me to my car. at this point they take the blind told off of me, they cut the zip ties off -- >> rob the bank, we'll meet you at the drop off. >> i did exactly what they told me, i called my boss, i said this is my life, don't call the police. as i turned the corner, i saw all of the police cars and panic set in. >> the surprises are just getting started when "a villainous plan" continues. a villainous plan" continues
at 8:30 a.m., eight-and-a-half hours since the start of the nightmare, he was on the way to the branch office of his credit union saying they strapped devices to his belly. >> i'm driving to the credit union and now for the first time i start to think of wow, how is this going to play out? what is going to happen?
>> you drove yourself? >> how are they going to control you? >> i figured they would just follow me around and watch me. two bombs that could be detonated by the touch of a cell phone. and a timer on his device that would go off at 11:00 a.m. i called my boss, my mom and i are victims of a home invasion. i'm in my car strapped to an explosive device, and i'm coming to the credit union to empty the vault. you need to evacuate the branch. basically the first thing he said to me was "is this a test"? we do testing, and i said no, this is not a test, this is real, this is my life, don't play with it and don't notify the police. don't call the police. i don't know what will happen, we didn't have a plan for this. >> the boss ignored his plea of no cops.
>> i just received a call a few minutes ago from one of our vps and he is instructing me to vacate our new britain branch because they're going to come and rob it. >> that call ended up here. police headquart eers in ne new britain, connecticut. >> i was a new sergeant. and we were doing role call in the morning. >> the orange thing we knew is they gave us a plate on the car. it was a red car. >> the sergeant had matt's license plate number and the model of the red car. >> i got to the red union and i
don't see anything. no cars, no -- and i'm like fantastic. as i turn the corner to the front, that's when pure panic sets in. then i see all of the police cars, s.w.a.t. guys, and i think this is it. i was like this is the worst thing that could happen. >> there was a good 15 seconds of silence. >> him looking at us and us
looking at him and trying to figure out what was going on. >> they drew a gun and aimed it at matt. and i said i'm wearing an explosive device, they said show us, so i showed them, and they're like i can't believe this is real. >> it was a frigid 9 degrees out, the sergeant told matt to get mack in the his car. he was at that time the chief of police overseeing 168,05,000 officers. >> what do you do to secure the area? >> immediate response. all personnel were sent to the area. we learned buildings in the area
and put schools in lock down. swat teams were called in. calling in other agencies to assist is not a small decision. they had to be made and they were made very quickly. >> back at the credit union parking lot, a member of the crisis negotiation team became the point man to communicate with matt. the sergeant gave his cell number and started to talk to him. >> we were trained to talk to people. keep him talking, calm him down. if it's a hostage we need to keep them calm. if they're a suspect that is agitated we need to bring them down from thattage stat agitate.
>> how was he? >> even keeled for the situation. >> members of the bomb squad were scrambling traveling in from different parts of the state. precious time was melting away. then at 10:00 a.m. the kidnappers started texting wanting their money. one hour to go until the bomb was supposed to explode. >> i said to the police, what do you want me to tell them? >> matt needed answers and he didn't have much time to get them. >> your mind starts to think about weird things like will i know it? what will you feel? when a villainous plan continues. villainous plan continues. but we never had a year like this. today's postal workers delivered for you, with millions of pieces of vital mail, medicine and packages. 65 million ballots, and now holiday gifts... all during a pandemic.
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>> hello, i'm lindsey riser. the fb eerks taking the lead in an investigation in a massive explosion in the down town business district this morning. police were responding to a shooting where they found an rv blaring a warning that a bomb was about to explode. it blew windows off of buildingings for blocks. we'll have live updates from nashville all afternoon. now back to daitliteline extra. it was now close to 10:00
a.m. almost 90 minutes since matt first drove into the parking lot. >> you're just in the car strapped to an explosive device. >> it was about to go off in an hour. >> i'm like are my employees watching this? i don't want them to see me blow up. that next hour was just awful. >> the pressure was becoming unbearable. >> i'm starting to cry. i'm waiting for the bomb squad. >> as the state police bomb squad headed to the scene, the sergeant was talking to matt by cell phone from the car. >> i wanted to just assure them that we have help on the way and we'll get through it. >> he is my one and only contact, the only person that i'm talking to. he tried to keep me from losing
it a couple times. i don't think i can handle the stress and he reached out and really tried to help. he knew it was about as stressful as you can get. >> he was still able to tell the police about his mom's dire situation. mean miles from the credit union parking lot, and she didn't nowhere. she decided to work herself free from the bed. >> it took me awhile to get out because they wrapped that duct tape around and around. >> she had no requested that the authorities were descending on her home. >> as i got myself out of the restrains i could see out to our drive way. >> when i looked out there it was full of police. when i opened the door to hollar out, one of the policemen
pointed his rifle at me and he said walk up to the driveway. >> matt's mom was unharmed. she was alarmed as she came out. i lifted up my shirt, they checked me out, said okay, and then they put me in a police car. >> matt was told that his mom was okay. he was not, precious minutes were taking b ticking by. and it is going to go boom at 11:00. the original plan was that i would be done at 10:00.
>> right at 10:00, i get the first text, you're done. and we say listen, we're going to roll with it. we're going to tell them you're still working hard to get the money they need and we need to just buy a little time. matt texted it is more money than i anticipated, moving as fast as i can. the kidnappers texted back "that is good. >> he didn't really make it into the bank at all. >> no, zero. >> and this is all to keep them talking, keep them on the line. >> and 36 minutes before the device was set to a device. they were able to detect where
the texts were coming from. >> whoever was in that situation was no longer in the area. >> that upped the anti for matt. >> it's 1035 and i'm like where is the bomb squauz. thoughts, terrible ones, raced through matt's mind. he recalled the shocking story who staid he was kidnapped and had a bomb around his neck. >> i knew he was forced to try to rob a bank, it didn't go well and he was killed coduring all of this. >> now your mind starts to play the tricks and you start to think about things like "will i know it when it goes off? will you hear it? see it? what will you feel? >> for matt the wait continued.
they stopped, they expected me to be at that drop off point. i'm now in full panic mode. >> coming up, tick took. >> 10:58, 10:59, it was just like the movies. he is wearing the big suit, he walks up to me and he is examining it. >> we saw multiple wires running through the tape and that organic material. >> when "a villainous plan" continues. when it comes to autism,
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gusman was in a panic. the device was set to go off at 1 11:00. i'm like where is the bomb squad. >> that was the first and only time i responded to a incident with a device attached to a body. >> mike avery now retired was on the bomb squad. they assembled a bomb robot to inspect the device. they didn't know what it walked into. >> we didn't know if this individual was a suspect or a victim. un unbenownst to him, snipers are around his car.
>> giving the sniper team in place deploying the row bot eight up more of the clock. it was just two minutes until 11:00. >> i had my clock, and i watch it'd go 10:58 and 10:59 and i'm thinking this is it. i'm looking at my phone, he is watching his, and it is clicking closer to 11:00. i didn't pray, i didn't know what to do. i just counted it down and waited and when that phone hit 11:00 my heart stopped and i just sat there. >> there was no explosion. >> i looked around and nothing happened. after 11:00 passed it was a sigh
of relief by everybody there. the last thing we wanted was for anything to happen to matt. >> i was like why am i not bed. it was about 11:05 or 11:06 and i said maybe they lied to me. >> no one butt the kidnappers knew what was wrapped around matt. >> we could see that there is something attached to his torso, but we cannot get a good visual on it. >> they got a better sense of the device from the naked eye. they drew alongside matt. >> he slowly lifted his shirt and exposed the device. it was wrapped around with like a heavy duty gorilla tape. then avery made his move,
volunteering to remove it himself. he suited up and approached matt. this photo was taken at that moment. it had been 11 hours since matt and his mother first said they were kidnapped. here he was without a coat, 9 degrees out. >> just like the movies. the guy is wearing the big suit, and he walks up to me and he is examining it. >> the cops decided to be x-raying his torso. >> we saw multiple wires running through that material. >> they're looking at it, coming up with a plan for what they're going to do. finally he says we're going to take this off of you.
>> i went down with a couple cutting tools, had him remain on his knees facing away from me, lifted his shirt up and started to cut the tape up his back. >> as if he had not gone through enough, he was extremely hairy. this was gorilla tape and it was wrapped around histo torso. >> we findally get the bomb dow, and he told me to kick it and run away. and i kick it and it gets stuck on your shoe and i'm dragging it with me. >> at the time i wasn't
laughing, but god if looking back now that was one of the more comic kal momeal moments o whole ordeal. >> we did not tell him to run and it was not stuck to him. >> at last, his ordeal was over, so he thought. >> as i get to the first s.w.a.t. guy, i tap him and i say thank you, and they immediately grabbed both of my hands and put me in handcuffs and threw my hands behind my back, and i don't understand what is going on here. >> coming up, they're like we're doing this for your own safety, and i was like but you're the ones with the guns. they had reasons to be sus special especially after what they heard about matt from his relatives. investigators turn up the heat. and matt starts to sweat. >> i know i'm in trouble.
>> i'm like i'm the victim. they're like are you okay? we're going to arrest you and take you to the hospital. he was checked out, they took these photos, his waist red and raw, and they took pictures of the device itself. it turned out that after the massive bomb scare, the multiagency security operation, all of the white knuckle fear, the bomb was a fake. just modelling clay with wires running through it that connected to nothing. there was no timer counting down. so matt and sally would have some explaining to do. >> okay. >> by now, detectives were questioning valerie and learning strange details about the
kidnappers m.o. >> what did they use to bind your hands? >> nothing. >> another weird detail, according to valerie, the kidnappers behaved like gentleman. they were trying not to hurt me or do anything bad. after he taped my feet to the bed, he said don't worry, we're not here to hurt you. he brought me in a can of soda, cookies on the counter. i'm, you know, he was being very nice to me. investigators took valerie's clothes as evidence as she offered more strange detailed. >> i almost wanted to say do you do housekeeping too, i thought it was funny. they even called her ma'am.
>> these guys calling you ma'am and giving you cookies and juice -- they're still terrorizing you? >> i thought it was bizarre. >> investigators when they brought matt to new britton police headquarters. >> a ton of questions for you. >> what was up with that nighttime shower he took while the kidnappers were in his home? >> did you find that odd? >> yes, i did. i don't know why -- >> it was their idea? >> yeah. >> as for the strange nighttime drive the kidnappers took matt on, he didn't have a convincing explanation. >> they kept making turns. >> and why did kidnappers speak to matt using a digitally altered voice? >> you know, like when they do it on tv. they change some guys voice. something like -- very similar to that. >> not human? >> yeah.
>> former police chief wardwell was getting updates. >> i can see how you're concerned about it, talking about the home invaders who do strange things. >> the investigators were not ruling out any possibility. mr. yussman was telling a version of events that by a lot of accounts would make people pause and say, really? >> so much of matt's story didn't add up. as he sat in the police interview room, the atmosphere turned chilly. the detective's questions had sharp edges. >> financially -- >> yeah. >> as far as it goes for you. >> well, yeah. >> what matt didn't know was that morning right after his credit union boss called police, the investigators reached out to people he knew well and found out stuff. >> we talked to your brother and nephew and the first thing they mentioned was that you're a big gambler.
they said you owe money that you gamble a ton. and that that's completely false. >> this was the troubling picture coming together for police. a guy with possible money problems, kidnappers who are friendly to his mom. who then let him drive himself to his own credit union to rob his own credit union and they figured he had to be somehow involved. >> you have the ability and the access to do it. >> okay. >> that's why maybe you're a willing participant in this thing. >> if the kidnappers did disguise their faces or voices that didn't help matt. >> there's only one reason they do that. >> had matt gotten himself entangled in a scheme to get himself rich? >> this is your opportunity to put it all on the table. if that's something else going
on, we can help you with. if someone -- >> i -- >> i'm completely honest, there's nothing. i can say unequivocally that i have nothing indirectly or directly to do with this. >> but as detectives pressed matt to fess up, his answers didn't satisfy. >> i'm going to put the cards on the table. i don't have time to play games with. you implication you're involved in that, not a victim. >> okay. >> some sort of inside job. >> investigators seemed so convinced that matt wasn't being straight with them, they wondered if his mom was part of the scheme. >> have you lied to us at all? >> no. >> when you've been in here? >> no. >> you haven't told us any up truths? >> not that i know of. >> in order to protect matthew? >> no. >> police were undeterred. they took matt's dna.
>> so it will be a little uncomfortable. >> then they asked him to sit for a polygraph. >> it will be bad for you if you fail the polygraph. >> i don't see any reason why i would fail the poli graph. >> it would turn out to be bad for matt. >> it's under investigation. >> new britton's police chief wardwell held a news conference. the city was on edge after being partially shut down when yussman showed up at the credit union strapped with an explosive and the bomb was a fake. >> we're considering all possibilities, whether or not he was coerced, doing something against his will or something. could your guys determine if the story was true or not? >> you could not determine what the facts were. >> but you're not finding any corroborating evidence. >> there's no corroborating evidence other than his mom. >> no evidence to support matt's story.
investigators searched his house and car with a fine tooth comb looking for fingertips or dna from the kidnappers but found nothing. what's more, he failed part of the polygraph. >> i know i'm in trouble. i know that i'm needing an attorney and that this is not going to go well for me. >> matt was right. in the following days authorities got search warrants for his home. they collected computers and phones. subpoenaed his bank records and started to dig into his finances. then matt was placed on paid leave from his job. you're investigated not only by the authorities -- >> but my own credit union to make sure they can clear me. >> but what no one knew this unbelievable tale in connecticut was only on chapter one. while matt tried to save his reputation, investigators in another part of the country were about to uncover a whole series
of similar crimes. crimes that would span three states involving high-speed chases and even more victims. this is where the story takes a turn south. to tennessee. it was april 28, 2015, two months after the connecticut home invasion. an assistant u.s. attorney general happened to be in the middle of the great smokey mountains national park when he got a message. >> please call the fbi, i've got something about a kidnapping. >> that man was david lewis. he learned that mark ziegler was on his way to work as a ceo of the y-12 credit union. he noticed a garbage can was knocked over. >> so he gets out of the car, goes to fix the garbage can at which time he is accosted by two masked men wearing ski masks with guns drawn.
>> as an assistant u.s. attorney, lewin was assigned to help the fbi. the descriptions of the two suspects were similar. one, slender and tall, the other is stockier. >> the first guy with the gun had a big sun burst tattoo on his neck. the mask was pulled up so that was exposed. >> distinctive? >> distinctive. then another person came through that appeared to be a black male, and a black bald head, again with guns drawn. >> the assailants forced ziegler back into the house. all three fightened family members were handcuffed and put in the living room. the note contained chilling details and he was going to rob his own credit union. coming up --
>> he's to empty the vault of $3.4 million for every minute that he was late his wife was going to lose a finger. >> later -- a high-stakes stalemate. >> the bank employee refuses to open the vault. >> and a high-speed car chase that could crack the case. >> the third vehicle -- >> when "a villainous plan" continues. third vehicle - >> when "a villainous plan" continues. ere for the holidays? how did you find great-grandma's recipe? we're related to them? we're portuguese? i thought we were hungarian? grandpa, can you tell me the story again? behind every question is a story waiting to be discovered.
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returning to our story. an executive says he was kidnapped by gunmen and ordered to rob his own credit union. >> it's c-4 explosive, we'll strap it to you. >> the bomb was fake. was his story fake too? >> it's gong to be bad for you if you fail the polygraph. >> but it was about to be deja vu all over again. more kidnappings. >> he said he'll kill me and kill your child. >> he's to empty the vault of my gold bullion. >> a dramatic roadside arrest, but some dots would need to be connected first. 800 miles from matt yussman in new britton, connecticut, unsuspecting authorities near
knoxville, tennessee, had no idea they were about to be a part of the same story. they were dealing with an unfolding story of their own. two armed assailants were holding mark ziegler's wife and son at home. >> he's to empty the vault of $3.4 million as well as any and all gold bullion. >> the ceo was given a strict deadline. he had less than 45 minutes to get the cash and gold. if he failed the consequences would be devastating. >> for every minute that mr. ziegler was late, his wife was going to lose a finger. and when she ran out of fingers, their adult daughter brittany who lived in texas at the time, they have people watching brittany in texas. >> they had eyes on the
daughter. >> they had eyes on the daughter and they were going to chop her up and mail her to the family if mr. ziegler failed to comply. >> how do they have so much knowledge about this family? >> we don't know. >> but they're get the facts right? >> they're getting the facts right. >> the lead investigator for the fbi, he said what happened next took an even more bizarre turn. >> the tall, slender guy, white male went outside. and a few minutes later a white female comes in through the back door. >> a female. >> a female. >> you have she assailants. >> she sees something about that he told me to come in and said get milk for the baby. >> for the baby? so now you have four players here. one is an infant apparently. >> a baby. >> is this a gang? >> we're dealing with a crew. >> ziegler arrived at the credit union and he started to load
cash into a black bag and he slipped one of the employees this note. >> 911, what is your emergency? >> my ceo sent me a note that says home invasion, call police. and he walked into the vault. >> ziegler filled the black bag with over $200,000 in cash. then he got in his car and headed towards the parking lot exit where an arriving police officer stopped him. the criminals were listening in to everything through a cell phone in ziegler's pocket. >> mark ziegler is telling them through the phone that the police are here. they're approaching me. what do you want me to do? and what he heard through the phone was two words -- abort, abort. and then the phone went dead. >> in the meantime, the kidnappers blindfolded ziegler's wife and son and loaded them into the family's suv. they drove to the parking lot
and dumped the vehicle with ziegler's wife and son inside. eventually they freed themselves. >> they got out alive and the bank robbers got no money. >> and they escaped. >> tell me about this. >> you are being bound with duct tape and with handcuffs. and mark ziegler and his wife knowing that these perpetrators knew a lot of personal information. so it wasn't just a physical assault of the guns and the bindings. it was communicating to them we know a lot about you. >> the zieglers provided a detailed description of the suspects which authorities used to create this sketch of the black male and this one of the female suspect who came in the
house looking for milk. i'm sure the crime scene techs processed is the house. did they get lucky? >> we found nothing. it was clean. >> fingertips? >> no fingertips, no dna, nothing was left behind. >> nothing to stop the next attack and there would be a next one. coming up -- a young couple and their baby barricaded behind locked doors. >> a pry bar is being used on the master bedroom door. >> where she's huddling with her husband and child? >> and child. >> and an intense standoff. >> the bank employee refuses to open it up. >> she said they'll kill me. >> she said they'll kill me. >> when "a villainous plot" continues. e. >> when "a villainous plot" continues. and now that sprint is a part of t-mobile we're turning up the speed. upgrading over a thousand towers a month with ultra capacity 5g.
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that's it. i figured it out! we're going to give togetherness. that sounds dumb. no, santa, we're going to take all those family moments that make the holidays and package them. oh, you are getting so big! woahh! it's down to the wire, the team's been working around the clock. i'm not sure it's going to work. it'll work. i didn't know you were listening. hmm. (laughing) that works. connecticut, july 2015.
for many months yussman remained under a cloud of suspicion. by that time he told the investigators in connecticut it must be the same guys that kidnapped him an he mother. >> i found that this to be odd that another executive was forced to rob his credit union. it's the same people. no way that this is a coincidence. they told me it was coincidence, copycat doing this. >> matt had been allowed to return to his job but he was still under investigation. the fbi had taken over his case from the local police. and according to matt, there were serious doubts about his innocence. >> they said there was a 100% chance i was guilty and i said in trouble. >> back in tennessee, that same month, the it would be another family's turn to be traumatized. the harrisons, tanner, abigail
and 5 month old son. >> he and abigail were in the cute little love phase. they had a new baby they were very happy. >> jamie satterfield covered this story for the knoxville news sentinel. >> she remembers having a goofy grin on her face and she leaves the baby with tanner and she goes down the steps. she's going to take a quick jog and frankly, she said she might come back and get a little flirty with her husband. so that's why she had the goofy grin on her face. so she gets down to the bottom of the steps, opens the door and then boom. >> as soon as she opened the garbage, she saw two masked men ski masks, dark clothing, with guns. she immediately slams the door shut. >> using a crowbar, one of the assailants ripped open the door. >> he's in the kitchen of the house. >> abigail ran upstairs, she's
trying to warn her husband. >> they then chase her up the stairs. she runs down the hallway to the master bedroom. she slams the master bedroom door shut. >> then her husband locked the door. >> they immediately hear that door frame starting to crack. because the pry bar was now being used on the master bedroom door. >> where she's huddling with her husband and child. >> and her child. >> only one place left to go they go into the master bathroom. >> they get back -- the farthest point they could get away and tanner is trying to hold the door and the baby is crying at this point. just chaos. >> that's the last doorway? >> yeah. the two invaders forced themselves fine the bathroom and then one delivered a refrain -- >> you're going rob your bank for us. >> tanner you may have guessed
worked at a local bank as a loan officer. the attackers loaded the entire family in the harris' car including the 5-month-old son. the attackers knew where tanner worked and drove there with the family. fbi agent -- >> they are going to keep the son and the wife while he goes in and robs the bank. >> this is a child in arms. >> this is a baby. >> does this make this a special case? >> you're ramping up when you talk about a defenseless infant. >> tanner went into the vault as seen from the surveillance camera and loaded a black bag with cash. he then went out to the car where the kidnappers are holding the family. >> you see the car stop and you see tanner harris hand over a very large bag but you can see a brief struggle. >> tanner demand had the kidnappers let his wife and child go before he would turn over the cash. >> at which time the bag is
yanked, the door is shut and the image of the husband and father left in that parking lot by himself watching the car speed away. >> two armed december prados have taken his family. >> yes. they left abigail and son in their own vehicle while they got off in the get away car. they had escaped once again but they netted $195,000 for their efforts. so in this case you believe you have two middle aged males. its not three. >> no woman, no black male, no tattoo reported. >> how is it playing as a story? how is knoxville hearing about it? >> i can't say that people were universally frightened. i think the greater harm is that people were suspicious of the families. that's what i heard. i had cop friends that were suspicious, and we as
journalists were suspicious. they kidnapped you but let you go. it sounded unbelievable. >> unbelievable maybe, but it would happen again. this time in northern tennessee. three months after the harris case, a young mother was starting her day and struggling to get her toddler son secured in her car. >> he wants candy for breakfast and he is throwing a fit. so she's quite distracted anyway. when all of a sudden, you know, she feels movement. >> brook lyons didn't have time to think. in an instant, she and her 3-year-old son were under attack. >> she looks up and here's a guy with an assault rifle pointed at her. >> two male attackers forced brook into the car with her son. that's right, they headed here, this credit union in elizabethton where she worked as a $9 an hour teller. >> they knew how to get to the bank without being told. >> jeff blanton is a special agent for the fbi.
he investigated brook's case and said she was instructed to go inside and get $350,000 or else. >> she's been told by the two guys if the police are called there will be a shoot-out, that she and the child will be in the middle of it. >> a frantic brook screamed that she needed the vault open because her 3-year-old son was being held hostage outside. that's when brook's day got even worse. >> she finds her boss in the bank. and says, two men have carson with guns i need to get into the vault. her boss refuses to open the vault. >> we can be judgmental in that kind of circumstance. >> right. >> but masked men have her child outside the door. >> brook lyons' response was singular. she pointed at her and said, you just killed us.
>> the credit union security cameras caught the excruciating moments brook was desperately running around looking for help. >> she runs out of the bank, opens the passenger side book door of her car. throws the bag in there, drapes over carson and begs them not to shoot her and tells them to drive because the cops are being called as they speak. >> surprisingly the criminals let them both go, leaving them in her car while they took off in another vehicle. they get any money. two bizarre stories had the rumor mill buzzing with inside jobs, but now there were three. people were wondering who would be next. fbi investigators were frustrated. they had no solid leads. by that time, they already released sketches of the suspects from the attack on the ziegler family hoping that might advance the case. no one would have guessed that the big break in the investigation would happen when
this assistant restaurant manager took his fiancee's little red car for a drive on the highway. coming up -- once he hit me i knew at this point this guy is running. >> a high-speed car chase reveals a subtle clue. >> just hit a third vehicle. >> and a sharp-eyed investigator took notice. >> it struck me they had discipline, they had purpose. >> when "a villainous plan" continues. >> when "a villainous plan" continues. ♪ ♪ smooth driving pays off. ♪ with allstate, the safer you drive the more you save. ♪ you never been in better hands. allstate. click or call for a quote today.
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breaking news from nashville. the fbi is taking the lead in the investigation of a massive explosion downtown. this captured the blast from the outside camera and it shattered windows and damaged buildings. an rv was parked on the street with an audible warning that a bomb would explode within 15 minutes. the officials believe the area is secure and three people went to the hospital with noncritical injuries. live updates from nashville all afternoon, but for now, back to "dateline extra." it was surreal. it was like you're not going to believe what happens. >> this is adam rousseau. no, he isn't a bank executive or a teller. not another victim of the bank robbing gang terrorizing east
tennessee. back in 2015, more than a month before lyon's ordeal, he was driving west on i-40 in north carolina in a car he borrowed from his fiancee. >> what kind of car? >> it was a ford focus. >> little car. >> yeah. gets you where you need to go. >> if you try telling adam he was the most crucial player in the case that had befuddled investigators he would have told you you're crazy but that's what was about to happen. >> i remember looking in the rearview mirror and i could see, you know, a couple of cop cars, the sirens and a black suv. that guy must have been going too quick, you know, he's getting pulled over. >> i'm attempting to take over a vehicle on 40 westbound. >> this is the dash cam video from one of the police cars. you may recognize it. it's that same dramatic
high-speed chase footage we showed you at the beginning of the story. >> i looked back and they were still following this guy. that's when i kind of knew something was a little off. like why is this guy not pulling over? >> instead the driver pulled up to adam's little red car in the right-hand lane. >> all of a sudden, this black suv is on my tail. he's making the swerving gestures, kind of like swipes. all i know is putting two hands on the wheel. he hit me. >> ramming cars. just struck one red vehicle. >> freeze frame that moment. what the heck is going on? >> once he hit me, i knew at this point this guy is running. obviously, it was like, you know, you're not going to hit me and keep going with two cops on you unless something is going on. >> adam then watched in horror as the black suv hit another car
with such force -- >> just hit a third vehicle. >> it spun out of control and crashed into the barrier. >> i was like, well, you know, what's about to happen next, you know? am i about to caught out in the middle of the shoot-out, what are the guys doing? >> then the doors open and here comes two guys. >> yeah. >> adam saw a driver and a passenger leap out with two black bags. >> they start to cross the concrete barrier like an olympic track record and sprinting through the wooded area. >> running i-40. >> the north carolina troopers decided not to give them chase. adam called his fiancee. >> i was like, babe, you don't believe what just happened. she was like, no way. are you serious? like she couldn't believe it. you know, sounds like a movie scene. >> that should have been it. a crazy tale maybe to tell the
grandkids at thanksgiving, but that's where the story took a left turn into the twilight zone. adam's fiancee called her dad. >> i received a call from my oldest daughter and i thought there was a problem en route to the job interview. my future son-in-law has messed up the job interview. >> you're not only her prospective father-in-law, what else are you? >> i'm a special agent in the fbi. >> and his years of fbi experience told agent o'hare that some things he heard about that chase were rather strange. like the way the driver tried to ram adam's car from behind. o'hare recognized that as a police tactic called a pit maneuver. >> it's a police intervention week. >> what's the goal? >> to get the engine to shut
down and then get ahold of the driver and make the arrest. if you're a criminal and you spin vehicles around, you can wreak havoc on the pursuing law enforcement officials. >> stop! >> and there was something unusual about the way those men fled. >> i had no clue as to why they felt it so important to grab those bags. or why they would choose to cross an ongoing interstate to make that get away. didn't make any sense. >> it confounded the north carolina troopers too and authorities never did find the two men. agent o'hare didn't think much more about it, until a little more than a month later when he was assigned to help on a case up in elizabethton. as luck would have it, the brook lyons case. you have had a bank robbery, a woman abducted, told to hold up her own bank. what stuck in your mind? >> it was very well organized. >> and that jogged agent o'hare's memory to the high
speed chase. >> it struck me that the people had discipline. they had purpose. >> both cases also involved two suspects and black bags. >> i thought that it's not a guarantee that they're one and the same. but i wasn't aware of anyone else who would fit the bill. >> your gut is telling you something else is going on here. >> it was instinct that led me to believe that the two episodes could be connected. >> what started as a hunch was about to break this case wide open. coming up -- an abandoned gps with a road map of a crime spree. >> it looked that they were casing the bank. >> leading to another high-speed chase with a slightly different ending. >> drop to the ground! >> when "a villainous plan" continues. >> when "a villainous plan" continues. bill assumed it was a costume party.
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irresistibly smooth chocolate. to put the world on pause. lindor. made to melt you. by the lindt master chocolatier. a sophisticated bank robbing crew was on the loose in east tennessee. they'd already terrorized at least three unsuspecting families. >> we had no clue who was responsible for this. >> agent, how bad are these guys? >> i would consider these two individuals some of the most dangerous criminals to walk in east tennessee. they were equipped to do a lot
of damage and i feared that if this had gone on that an officer would have walked into the middle of one of the bank robberies or kidnapped individual would have fought back in a way that resulted in their death. >> so speculation this was he headed towards a fatality or a shoot-out? >> you don't kidnap and extort bank employees without the reality of a potential death. >> tips were coming in and investigators chased down every lead. but turned up nothing. by late october 2015, all of the fbi was left with was that hunch that agent o'hare had that a bizarre car chase miles away had something to do with the tennessee bank robberies. he shared us with jeff blanton. >> i said not for nothing, this happened, it might be something, might not. so at this point it was really the only last remaining stone
that we needed to go turn to see if there was anything to it. >> so they took a close look at what happened in north carolina. agent blanton and agent noserra learned that the crazy car chase started with a stop for speeding and they wanted to look at the dash cam. >> you had two white males. one tall and athletic and one a little bit thicker and stockier and the black bags stuck out because both the zieglers and the harriss had described the individuals they had black bags. >> your first pass through, what did you think? >> i knew we had bad guys. i thought we may have something here, enough to continue the investigation. at this point i did not know if it was our bank robbers or it wasn't. >> they found a gps device in
the car. tell me where you have been. >> it can. >> and an fbi special agent searched the device. one of the locations marked on the gps was a credit union near knoxville. >> it looked that this was set up that they were casing the bank and looking for escape routes and like away from the bank. i talked to jeff, i said, it may not be our bank robber bus it's somebody's bank robbers. >> another led to a luxury rental home in maggie valley. a beautiful tourist destination near the smokey mountains. investigators reached out to the property manager. >> the fbi basically stated that they just had some concerns and needed to know who was staying in the home. >> melissa told the agents about five months earlier she had received an inquiry. two men, a writer and his assistant were looking for a place to stay while they worked
on their book. melissa showed them around. they were in the market for something secluded with a garage. >> we traveled around the area, looked a at couple of homes and they chose one. >> the men were staying in a home aptly named southern comfort. it was a month to month rental and they paid in cash. melissa said they were some of her best tenants. >> these guys treated me with outmost respect. they were very kind. on an occasion they actually brought me a potted plant. and a thank you card for, you know, being such a hospitable rental company. >> they hardly seemed like wielding robbers. >> did the name check out? >> no, no, the name did not check out. >> for blanton, the clincher came when he talked about the renter's car? >> i asked her if she had ever
seen him in the black suv. i know there was a black suv burned after the robbery and she said, they had a black suv, lexus, but hadn't seen it. >> were you convinced this was your crew? >> i was convinced this it was bank robbery crew, yes. >> it was time for the good old fashioned stakeout. did you see them coming and going? >> we did. we were not able to identify who they were. >> and the men were not alone. >> the surveillance team was able to ascertain that there was a female at the cabben. >> did you know who she was? >> we didn't know who she was. >> remember the ziegler home invasion. there was the woman who came in the house and asked for milk for her baby. could this be her? authorities waited patiently for an opportunity to take the suspects down. two weeks after they started their surveillance, they finally
got their chance. assistant u.s. attorney david llewyn. >> the day before thanksgiving, law enforcement sees them get into the silver pathfinder with stolen plates and the decision was made to stop the vehicle. >> it was another high-speed chase. sirens blaring. the suv weaved around traffic, then suddenly slowed down. >> we see the suv pull over. we see the passenger side door open. we see a person get out of the vehicle holding a black bag and then the suv takes off. >> get on the ground! get down now! put your hands up! >> one down, one to go. but the man on the ground, well, he wasn't behaving like a criminal caught in the act. he was behaving like a victim. >> he said, i'm not involved, i don't know what's going on. i'm hitchhiking, i was trying to
get a ride. >> did the cops get the wrong guy? they have to sort that out later. there was still a man on the loose barrelling down the highway. coming up -- there's more than one way to catch a crook. >> the driver jumps out and takes off on foot. red pickup truck pins him -- >> runs him over? >> runs him over. >> can't make this up. >> you can't. >> and later a suspect opens up. >> there's a crumpled piece of paper. >> when "a villainous plan" continues. r. >> when "a villainous plan" continues. not what's easy. so when a hailstorm hit, usaa reached out before he could even inspect the damage. that's how you do it right. usaa insurance is made just the way martin's family needs it with hassle-free claims, he got paid before his neighbor even got started. because doing right by our members, that's what's right. usaa. what you're made of, we're made for. ♪ usaa
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that. >> can road rage exploded. the driver took off in hot pursuit of the suv. leapfrogging the state troopers. >> the police are now following the red pickup truck who is following the silver path finder. >> so the lead position is mr. road rage. >> mr. road rage. >> why'd you cut me off. >> right. >> with the driver and the pickup driver giving chase, they went into the construction site and into the ditch. >> the driver takes off on foot and the red pickup truck pins him under the wheel. >> runs him over? >> runs him over. >> you can't make this stuff up. >> you can't. >> the driver to suv was banged up with a broken collarbone, broken ribs and burns. both me and the passenger who rolled out of the suv were taken to the local jail but who were they? investigators learned the driver was brian witham, a guy with a
rap sheet dating back to when he was in his 20s with convictions for armed robbery. >> we were the impressive that given the chance he'd kill you and think nothing of it. >> the agent tried to get answers from witham but his suspect was mum. >> witham comes in and says he's not going to rat. >> the passenger who claimed to be a hitchhiker said he was michael benanti. here in an interview room he ranted about his arrest. >> there should be no arrest here. i did nothing. >> why? >> you know what i mean? there's no nothing, i didn't nothing. >> he bragged that he was a big-deal executive. >> i'm a ceo. eight years, and this [ bleep ] stupid arrest is going to destroy me. >> investigators learned that benanti in fact founded the company and he was even profiled in the "wall street journal" in
2014. his company was called prisoner assistant and it managed finances for inmates in prison. turns out benanti had a lot of experience in that area. >> he has multiple felony convictions to include attempted murder of a police officer, robbery, theft of property. and most importantly a federal conviction of conspiracy to commit bank robbery. >> what did you make of the business he had? >> he was stealing from the business and part of the reason that the banks were being robbed so he could repay some of the moneys he owed to inmates that he was stealing from. >> of course he wasn't some random hitchhiker who happened to get into witham's car as he originally told the police. the two were in cahoots and they had a long history together. they had met in the late '90s at a prison in pennsylvania and devised a plan to escape, but the attempt failed. then both of them were sent to the super max prison in colorado. now, again in custody, benanti
paced about, asking his sister to bail him out. >> i'm very, very sorry to have to give you this call, i love you. i'm in prison. >> then fbi agent blanton arrived to interview him. agent, first impressions, what did you see? >> well, he was extremely arrogant. >> pompous as well, blanton said. >> he is the smartest person in the room no matter what room he's in. he was very proud that he was a graduate of super max and he had been to prison. he was proud of hipdz his credentials being a criminal. >> by now she were sure they had the right guys. in part because of something that happened when benanti was arrested. >> benanti is white knuckling something in his hands. clenched fist. his fist opened up and there's a crumpled piece of paper. >> the feds took a look at it. that crumpled paper had details, names and numbers that sent a
chill down their spines. >> three names. handwritten. bank executives in greenville and spartanburg, south carolina. their titles, their bank locations. >> prosecutor lewin believed these were the next victims. so with a search warrant in hand, fbi agents and lewin spent thanksgiving day and black friday in 2015 in the smokey mountains at a house called southern comfort. there they found evidence of a sophisticated criminal enterprise. and evidence that would finally reveal who that mystery woman was. the woman who wanted milk for her baby. so agents, who is this? coming up -- the answer. >> over $1,500 apiece to purchase the masks. >> they were so into deception and red herrings. >> and warnings. >> be careful what you put out
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to tie michael benanti and brian witham to the string of bank robberies in eastern tennessee. >> when we originally walked in, the amount of evidence and items that were in the house was staggering. weapons, electronic device, cameras, fake law enforcement ids, fake tattoos, and massive amount of photos. among them, this picture of benanti and withham. plus an inadvertent selfie. benanti's face in the rearview mirror of a photoof the banks. when he was told about the evidence, he changed his story. step by step they gathered intelligence, first they identified the bank. >> they would look on its social media page and hopefully get
names and pictures the people they thought would be worthy targets. >> then they stalked the bank employees on line. >> they could find them on linkedn. they could find them on facebook. >> victims would rise and fall on their target list depending on the quantity and quality of social media evidence that they put out there for the world to say. >> for example, in the harris case they saw pictures of the couple's newborn baby on facebook. >> with the hairs, they were planning on doing that one earlier but they noticed that ms. harris had given birth and pushed the date back. >> they also noticed the ziglers had a daughter living in texas. >> they said people were surveilling your daughter in texas. >> reporter: the spying became up close and personal. withham would height hide in their arms watching their every moves. >> go pros would be set up
around the house. brian would comma up, have some food and he would put himself up in a tree sometimes right next to the play sets of these families with the children in the backyard and watch quietly making notes of when lights go off, when they come on. when people go to the kitchen table, when they go out to get the paper. >> the duo would then take all the information they had gathered, reams and reams of personal details, surveillance photos, maps and compile them into a victim packet. agents found over a dozen of these packets in a black briefcase in the house the we have numerous packages that have names, address, children, grandchildren. >> without revealing it, spar tanberg, south carolina. >> that's correct. >> georgia. clayton georgia. >> future victims. >> yes, sir. >> future victims which included some of the names and addresses
that bennanty had clutched in his hands. >> we found thousands upon thousands of photographs on sd cards of some of these houses, elections, people. >> reporter: they weren't just future targets. they also found a target they knew very well, brooke lions. >> these targeting packettes that they have are of a quality i could use for a hit. >> or execute a search warrant or anything else. >> in talking to withham the agents found why they never found physical evidence new york dna, finger prints or fibers. he and bennanty made sure not to leave a trace behind. >> withham even shaved his body. >> while surveilling, he brought a jug with him. >> he relieves himself in the jugs so he doesn't break surveillance and doesn't leave
any dna behind. >> now, even with the two men in custody the feds didn't know how many others were involved. who was the african-american man and the woman the ziglers described? was there anyone else involved. >> three, four, five, six people? are we looking for two? what are the races? what are the genders we are looking for? >> brian withham gave them the answer. they bought masks. >> who is this. >> the white female from the robbery in 2018. >> the one who said the baby needs some milk. >> yes. >> the public released a sketch of her. it was close. >> brian withham walked outside, but that mask on and came in and acted like a foe mail looking for milk for the baby. >> as for the american man, it was a mask as well. >> pretty good masks.
>> they spend $1500 a piece we later found out to purchase these masks. >> they were sewing in deception and red herrings. >> the gender switch, the racial switch. >> all of that because then the victims are going to report all of that to the police and then the police will be looking for a black man, a woman with long brown hair. >> and it worked. withham also told the agents that he and benanti didn't strike just in tennessee. >> he lays out a crime spree up and down the eastern seaboard that began in the summer of 2014. >> he told them about a heist the two of them pulled off in 2014 in a small pennsylvania town. and sure enough, there was a tall slender man and a heavy set guy. they held the tellers at gun point and made off with $156,000. >> sure enough, we would go up and we would learn that that bank robbery was still unsolved. >> then withham told them about
another job. was in connecticut. that's when the fbi finally connected the tennessee cases to matthewiousman. >> the poor victim had been regarded a as a suspect and he lived under the sigma of that until withham gave up the story didn't he? >> right, yes. >> when the investigators were up there they were look at other leads, running things down. they were striking out the same as we were down here. >> matt gusman didn't know any of this yet. he was still very much under suspicion. in fact he had just appeared before a grand jury. >> it didn't go well. it was very obvious that they were going to recommend that oh, an indictment. >> that was november. then on december 1st, matt thought his worst fear had come true. his boss said the fbi as coming to his office. >> and i tell him that i am not going to allow them to arrest me right in front of all of my staff. >> the meeting was about an arrest, all right. but it wasn't matt's. >> they said, we have
apprehended two individuals down in north carolina. we have overwhelming evidence that connection them the your case. you are now no longer a suspect. you are now completely exonerated. and i just stared at them and said, thank you. and he goes, you know, a lot of police work went into this, and we did our job and we got the guys, and we won't be bothering you anymore. >> matt and his mom had been telling the truth all along. >> you get word from the fbi that they have got two bank robbers in custody. >> yes. yes. i was so relieved. because the whole time, the months that were going by, you always had in the back of your mind, or i did, would they come back? would they want to finish the job and things until they were caught. you know, you are very leery of this. >> the overwhelming emotion -- i actually broke down and cried in the office because all the
emotions just came out that i had been bollinging up for nine months because i was trying to show that i was truly innocent. >> and as he learned more about his kidnappers' m.o. some of the strange details about his story madeins sense. for instance, remember how his mom said the kidnappers used her vacuum to clean up. that's because they didn't want to leave any evidence behind. and can captors found him on his credit union website then found his picture and learned where he lived on facebook. >> you were surveilled. >> i can't handle that i had people surveilling me and i didn't notice. if i had paid more attention, would i have stopped this? >> in 2017 bennanty was convicted on 27 counts including armed bank robbery and extortion. he is now serving a sentence. brian withham, who struck a
deal, was sentenced to 30 years. what's the lesson here? be careful what you put out for the world to see. the minute you hit post or send you have no guarantee who will be able to access that at some point. >> the baby picture is out there. >> you talk about where you run in your neighborhood, and how long. it's out there. >> they exploited all of that information. >> they mined it all. >> as for mattiousman, he is still upset how he was treated by the fbi and local authorities. >> he would like to have taken a swing at you guys. >> rightfully so. he had been throw so much. for any of us to have added to any of his anguish is horrific. he is a victim of a horrific crime and a good man and a courageous man. >> while the men guilty of these crimes for years and years.
all of their victims are forever traumatized. >> they will never feel fully safe in their own homes. >> your life can never be the same. it never will be. no matter how much i put on that face and tell everybody that i am fine, i will never be the same after this. we're agonizing for the last two years. initially it was panic and then it turned into torment. >> i was concerned that she was hurt somewhere. i felt so helpless. ♪