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‘Trying to do the right thing,’ Man fined hundreds for mistake over soda refill

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNN) – A South Carolina man says he’s facing a federal fine after an 89 cent mistake at a VA hospital.

Christopher Lewis said, “Every time I look at the ticket, it’s unbelievable to me. I can’t fathom the fact that I made an 89 cent mistake that cost me $525.”

Lewis is out of a job after what he says was a simple mistake escalated.

According to a hospital spokesperson, signs are posted in the cafeteria that informs patrons that soda refills aren’t free.

Lewis says he never noticed the signs and admits he had refilled his drink without paying on other occasions.

After refilling his drink one day, a man who identified himself as the chief of police stopped him.

Lewis said, “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 says he tried to pay the 89 cents but wasn’t allowed to do so.

He says he wasn’t given the chance to pay the cashier either.

Lewis said, “I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong.”

He says he was taken to a room, given the $525 ticket for shoplifting and told not to return to the property.

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 bring my lunch and not go to the cafeteria?’ And he said he wanted me off the premises.”

A hospital spokesperson says it was her understanding that Lewis was aggressive during the confrontation.

The medical center released the following statement:

“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.”

Lewis said, “I was very respectful and compliant and I did everything they asked me to do.”

According to the VA spokesperson, the amount of Lewis’ fine is not determined by the hospital since it is a federal citation.

Lewis said, “It’s about pretty much, I guess you would say, getting your face back. 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.”