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Man robbed bank for $1 because he wanted a federal prison sentence

By Sarah May
|
March 9, 2023

In an unusual story out of Utah this week, a man initiated a robbery of a bank in which he demanded just one $1, reportedly because he was hoping to receive a federal prison sentence, as the Daily Wire reports.

The suspect was identified as 65-year-old Donald Santacroce, and the bizarre events unfolded at a Wells Fargo Branch in Salt Lake City.

Bank robber demands dollar

According to ABC4, Santacroce entered the bank branch on Main Street in Salt Lake City and approached the tellers staffing the counter.

He reportedly presented them with a note that read, “Please pardon me for doing this, but this is a robbery.”

“Please give me $1.00. Thank you,” the note continued.

The bank staff granted Santacroce's request, handing him the dollar and asking him to leave the building.

Wannabe prisoner insists on arrest

Despite the bank teller's request that he depart the premises, Santacroce refused and demanded that the police be called, according to a booking affidavit described by NBC affiliate KSL.

“Donald sat down in the bank lobby and waited for police to arrive,” the affidavit noted. “While waiting for police, Donald made a statement to the victims that they are lucky [he] didn't have a gun because it was taking the police so long to get there.”

That was when, according to the document, the bank's branch manager took her employees into a back room in the building and locked to doors to ensure their safety, and soon after, police arrived on the scene and took Santacroce into custody.

According to the arrest report, “Donald said he had done this because he wanted to get arrested and go to federal prison,” and he also indicated an intention to rob another bank for a greater sum if this incident did not result in his long-term incarceration.

Growing phenomenon explained

Though Santacroce was clear in his desire to be sent to federal prison, the reasons underlying that wish have not been made public.

The phenomenon in which individuals intentionally commit crimes in order go to jail is not new, however, as the U.K. Guardian reported late last year.

According to the outlet, the aforementioned conduct is exceedingly familiar to advocates who work with chronically homeless individuals as well as the mentally ill.

The Guardian noted that the problem is not confined to large urban centers such as Seattle and San Francisco but has spread to mid-size cities where housing has become far less affordable than in the past.

Far from a deterrent

For many homeless Americans, the Guardian notes, time spent in the state's custody – even if in jail – is much more desirable than living on the streets, where food, warmth, and bodily safety can be scarce.

As the head of Seattle's King County Regional Homelessness Authority explained to the outlet, the notion of voluntary surrender of freedom in exchange for predictable meals, shelter, and routine is a common theme, saying, “I've heard this story many, many, many times. I'm not aware of any academic paper on it. But those of us who work in housing and homelessness and public health know about it.”

Given the high cost of incarceration, advocates note, the inclination of some to seek jail as a way to escape other chronic issues in their lives, is a problem that requires real solutions, with Cathy Alderman of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless contending, “It's a policy, a political and a funding failure.”

Though it remains to be seen precisely what was driving Santacroce's attempt to land in jail, it is clear that while the course of action he took this week is not one that most citizens would willingly choose, it is also not nearly as uncommon as many would think.