- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2014

An on-site construction worker at a South Carolina hospital was slapped with a $525 federal fine and banned from ever working there again after he refilled his soda without paying.

Christopher Lewis was working at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston on Wednesday when he was stopped by a Federal Police Force officer for refilling a $0.89 soda, a local NBC affiliate reported.

“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,” Mr. Lewis told the station, admitting that he had taken free refills in the past.

The man said he was willing to pay the $0.89 right there, but the officer didn’t let him.

“I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong,” he said. “I’m done there, at the VA hospital. 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.”

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

A hospital spokeswoman called it a “theft of government property,” and said it was her understanding that Mr. Lewis was aggressive when confronted by the officer, the station reported.

“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,” the hospital said in a statement. “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.”

Mr. Lewis said he will contest the fine in federal court.