Refills in the cafeteria at the Ralph H. Johnson V.A. hospital are NOT free, and you better not forget it. And just in case you think you might be able to fill your cup with no one the wiser, federal police gave one man a $525 fine to serve as an example, a deterrent from such an horrific criminal act.
Christopher Lewis lost his job over the incident at the hospital in Charleston, S.C., where he was an on-site construction worker. Lewis admits he refilled his drink and that it wasn’t the first time.
During his lunch hour on a recent Wednesday, he purchased the 89-cent soda and went back for seconds. After taking the refill despite signs indicating such refills were not free, he was stopped by someone who identified himself as the “chief of police” according to CBS News.
Turns out, the officer was part of the Federal Police Force at the VA hospital. A hospital spokesperson called the event “theft of government property,” and Lewis says he was never given the opportunity to make things right.
“As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me was I going to pay for that, and I told him I wasn’t aware that I had to pay for that,” he said. He offered to pay for the drink, but wasn’t allowed to. “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.”
The hospital’s statement almost sounded humorous, like a bit off of a satire news source, stating they are:
“fortunate to have a highly trained Federal police force to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and employees….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 next day the hospital decided to back off, withdrawing the fine and settling on a warning instead. But Lewis is not allowed back on the premises. Now, like so many others accused of silly crimes in this country, he’s looking for a job.