SC man hit with $525 federal fine for failing to pay for 89-cent drink refill at VA hospital

A South Carolina man was slapped with federal fines for failing to pay for his drink refill at a veterans hospital.

Christopher Lewis was working construction Wednesday at the VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C., when he refilled his soft drink at lunch without paying 89 cents and was issued a ticket by the Federal Police.

"As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fellow 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 said.

Lewis said he did not see signs informing patrons that refills aren’t free and admitted he refilled his drink without paying on several other occasions.

He offered to pay for the drink but wasn’t allowed.

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

He also lost his construction job at the hospital, which called his unpaid refill “theft of government property,” and barred him from the property.

A hospital spokesperson said Lewis acted aggressively during the encounter.

Lewis said he and his fiancé have contacted the Internal Affairs Office and will contest the fine in federal court.

Watch this video report posted online by WIS-TV: - Columbia, South Carolina |

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Lewis as a North Carolina resident.