Man says an .89 soda refill cost him $525 and his job

(CNN) A South Carolina man says he's facing a federal fine and lost his job following an 89 cent mistake at a VA hospital.

Christopher Lewis, from Charleston, says he did not know soda refills in the hospital cafeteria were not free. Lewis says, "Every time I look at the ticket, it's unbelievable to me. I can't fathom the fact that I made an $.89 mistake that cost me 525 dollars."

According to a hospital spokesperson, signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons that refills aren't free.

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

He says after he re-filled his cup this week, a man who identified himself as the chief of police stopped him.

"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," says Lewis.

He says he tried to pay the 89 cents right there, but wasn't allowed to. He says he wasn't given the chance to pay the cashier either.

"I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong."

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

"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 got to the cafeteria and he said he wanted me off of 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 says, "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, because it is a federal citation.

"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."

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