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Senior citizen criminal robs bank to return to prison

Surveillance phoshows suspect who robbed Niles bank Feb. 9. Federal prosecutors say Walter Unbehaun did it because he wanted return

Surveillance photo shows the suspect who robbed a Niles bank on Feb. 9. Federal prosecutors say Walter Unbehaun did it because he wanted to return to prison. / photo from FBI

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Updated: December 24, 2013 6:07AM

An aging ex-con who deliberately got caught robbing a bank so that he could go back to prison should have his wish fulfilled, federal prosecutors say.

Walter Unbehaun, 73, spent most of his adult life behind bars but was apparently so unhappy living as a free man that he stuck up the BMO Harris Bank in north suburban Niles on Feb. 9. with the intention of being caught.

He told FBI agents he “wanted to go back to the only life he knew — prison life,” according to court papers filed this week by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Prosecutors want U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to lock him up for six to eight years, a sentence they acknowledge “would seem to be rewarding him for precisely the behavior we seek to deter.”

But they say Unbehaun’s willingness to stick up a bank even though he walks with a cane and has had hip-replacement surgery shows just how determined he is stay behind bars, making him a public danger at an age when most criminals have settled down.

“Did the system fail Mr. Unbehaun?,” prosecutor Sharon Fairley wrote in the filing. “We may never know. But, what we do know is, clearly, Unbehaun lacks the desire to lead a law-abiding life outside of prison walls.”

Unbehaun, of Rock Hill, S.C. — who has multiple convictions for bank robbery, car theft, home invasion, unlawful restraint, armed robbery, theft, unauthorized use of a weapon and armed violence going back to 1963 — is due to be sentenced next month.

His attorney did not return calls seeking comment.


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