A South Carolina man was fined $525 for refilling his drink without paying. Christopher Lewis paid 89 cents for a drink at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs hospital in Charleston. However, when he refilled his drink he was issued a criminal citation. Lewis said he thought the refill was free.
Lewis, a local construction worker, said a police officer “grabbed [him] by the arm” when he attempted to leave. When he was alerted to his error, he offered to pay for the refill. Unfortunately it was too late:
“Every time I look at the ticket, it’s unbelievable to me… I can’t fathom the fact that I made a $0.89 mistake that cost me $525.”
Although the situation is unusual, it is no laughing matter. Boston Herald reports that Lewis’ citation was issued by the Federal Police Force and he is formally charged with “theft of government property.”
In addition to facing federal charges, Lewis has lost his job. He was previously employed with a construction company, which was hired by the hospital. As he was charged with theft, he is no longer permitted on hospital property. Lewis said he offered to eat his lunch off-site. However, hospital officials do not want him on the premises.
The former construction has two options — he can either pay $525 or contest the citation in a federal court. Lewis said he contacted the Internal Affairs Office in Columbia and intends to contest the citation.
As reported by WYFF 4, a representative with the hospital said Lewis became “aggressive” when he was fined for refilling his drink. In an official statement, the hospital discussed the criminal charge:
“Today a Federal citation was issued for shoplifting in the VA cafeteria to an individual who stated to VA police he had not paid for refills of beverages on multiple occasions, even though signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons refills are not free. Shoplifting is a crime. The dollar amount of the ticket is not determined by VA as it is a Federal citation.”
Lewis could have made an honest mistake. However, the hospital and police are unwilling to let it go. The fine may seem excessive, but hospital officials said the signs were clearly posted throughout the cafeteria.
Although Lewis admits he made a mistake, he is not willing to pay a $525 fine for refilling his drink. He said he is not a thief, he simply did not see the sign.
[Image via Sea View Shell]