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Man Will Now Get Warning Instead Of $525 Fine For Not Paying $0.89 For Refill

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File photo of a man filing up a cup with soda. (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a man filing up a cup with soda. (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CBS Charlotte) – The Veterans Administration has changed its mind and will now issue a man a warning instead of a $525 fine.

“In reviewing the case, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has determined a warning in lieu of a citation is sufficient in this case,” the VA said in a statement obtained by WCSC-TV.

Initially, Christopher Lewis was issued a ticket for $525 when he refilled his drink without paying the $0.89 for the drink.

An officer of the Federal Police Force at the VA Medical Center originally issued Lewis a ticket for $525 because not paying for a refill is considered shoplifting.

A hospital spokesperson called it “theft of government property.”

“Every time I look at the ticket, it’s unbelievable to me,” Lewis told WCSC. “I can’t fathom the fact that I made a $0.89 mistake that cost me $525.”

According to the hospital, signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons that refills are not free.

Lewis, an on-site construction worker, says he never noticed the signs and has been getting refills without paying before.

“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,” Lewis added.

Lewis said he tried to pay the $0.89 but he says he was not given a chance to pay the cashier.

“I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong,” he added.

Lewis said he was taken to a room and given a $525 ticket for shoplifting and told to never return.

Lewis is now out of a job.

“I’m done there, at the VA hospital,” he added. “I’m not allowed to go on the premises anymore. I asked him can I still work on the job site and just bring my lunch and not go to the cafeteria and he said he wanted me off the premises.”

The hospital said Lewis was confrontational in the cafeteria.

The original statement issued by the hospital read: “The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is fortunate to have a highly trained Federal police force to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and employees. As Federal police they are responsible for enforcing the law. 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. The citation may be paid or the recipient may choose to appear in Federal court to contest it.”

Lewis said he would have contested the fine in federal court.

“It’s about pretty much I guess you would say getting your face back,” Lewis said. “I want everybody to know that I made a simple mistake, that I’m not a thief, that I’m not dishonest. I’m trying to do the right thing.”

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