‘Please Give me the money’: Three days after acquittal on bank robbery charges, man accused of robbing another Chicago bank with equally polite note

Two years ago, Mohamed Worku allegedly walked into a bank, handed over a rather polite demand note — “Give me the money Please Thank You” — and walked out with cash. He was arrested and charged.

On Friday, a federal jury acquitted him of bank robbery, apparently agreeing with his defense that, whatever he did, it wasn’t threatening enough to meet the legal standard for bank robbery.

And on Monday, three days after being released from custody, Worku allegedly walked into another bank and handed over an equally gentlemanly note — “Please Give me the money I’ll pay it back soon.” And again he walked out with cash.

Now, Worku is back in custody. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors filed a new complaint against him, this time charging him with both bank robbery, which requires proof the money was taken by means of “intimidation,” and bank theft, which does not.

At an initial appearance, prosecutors asked that Worku be held in custody pending trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes scheduled a detention hearing for Wednesday afternoon.

The first case dates to December 2021, when Worku was arrested for allegedly robbing a Fifth Third Bank in Little Village. A bank employee identified him as the man who came in with the polite demand letter, then left with nearly $600.

Police found him a few blocks away and took him into custody; the note asking for money was among his belongings, according to the criminal complaint.

Worku went to trial this month on a charge of bank robbery, which required prosecutors to show he took the money “by intimidation.”

His defense argued that, yes, Worku had committed a crime, but he didn’t make threats or do anything by force, so his actions didn’t meet the standard for the bank robbery charge, said attorney Mary Judge, who represented him in last week’s trial.

In other words, they told jurors, prosecutors couldn’t prove he actually intimidated anyone: There were “no implicit or explicit threats of any kind,” Judge said.

Worku was acquitted and released from custody Friday, records show.

Then on Monday afternoon, Worku allegedly went into a Citibank in Lincoln Park and passed an employee a note: “Please Give me the money, I’ll pay it back soon, Banker’s Gife (sic) to me in advance.”

The employee gave him more than $2,000 from the teller drawer, according to a criminal complaint made public Tuesday.

Worku was soon arrested about half a mile away, according to the complaint. In his pockets were green gloves, a blue surgical mask and a green hat, all matching the banker’s description of the robber’s clothes, according to the complaint, and he had more than $1,800 on him as well as federal custody paperwork with his name on it. The employee also identified him as the person who robbed the bank, the complaint states.

Judge, who does not represent Worku in the new case, said she believes prosecutors made a more appropriate charging decision this time because of last week’s verdict.

“Thank you to the jurors in our case for reaching the right conclusion,” she said. “Because of their not-guilty verdict, I believe the government is now charging both bank robbery and bank theft in a case where there is not evidence of force or threat of force, as it should be done.”

Chicago Tribune’s Jason Meisner contributed.