Corey Donaldson said he took £90,000 from a US lender to bail out those on the streets, who he met after losing his own home last year.
‘I came up with the idea that since the banks had been bailed out, and the people had not, I was going to confiscate money from US Bank in Jackson, Wyoming, and redistribute it to the poor and homeless in America and that’s what I did,’ said the 39-year-old.
Australian Donaldson, who has lived in the US for 20 years, claimed explosives were planted around the bank on New Year’s Eve, the court heard.
He allegedly told bank manager Jared Thomas Williams that members of a Mexican cartel were outside the building and were prepared to blow it up unless he was given almost £1.3million in cash.
‘There were four military-grade explosives that had been buried in the snow, and they were prepared to detonate them,’ Mr Williams said he was told.
Donaldson fled with a duffel bag stuffed with £90,000 – nearly all the cash in the building – but was arrested later in Utah after he was identified on CCTV cameras in the bank.
A friend, Kevin Day, also called police after Donaldson arrived at his home late one night and told him where to find £5,150 – a sum that made him ‘emotional’ because it had come ‘at a good time’.
Investigators say they have recovered more than £19,000.
Judges have told Donaldson he cannot argue to the jury that he was justified in robbing the bank.
But he insisted on describing how he saw his father lose his home to bank foreclosure and became ‘determined to put people ahead of the law’ following his own experiences with homelessness last year.
Donaldson, who is representing himself in the case, choked up as he told the jury in an emotional opening statement: ‘I must say, I feel like a frightened child.’