Wednesday, June 22, 2011

USA: Healthcare by Bankrobbery while USA bombs foreign countries

$1 bank robbery doesn't pay off for man who said he was desperate for healthcare

Richard James Verone

A $1 bank robbery was what Richard James Verone thought would get him thrown in jail so he could get the medical attention that he needs. 

The unemployed, uninsured 59-year-old has a growth on this chest, two ruptured disks and something wrong with his left foot. He figured if he held up a bank for a dollar, he'd get thrown in the slammer and be seen by a doctor.

So, earlier this month, he walked into the RBC bank in North Carolina and handed the teller a note that said, "This is a bank robbery. Please only give me one dollar."

It was Verone's first attempt at crime. After he held up the bank with his note, he sat on a couch, unarmed, as the teller called 911, and they waited patiently and peacefully for the police to arrive.

"I'm sort of a logical person, and that was my logic, what I came up with," Verone told reporters, according to ABC News. "If it is called manipulation, then out of necessity because I need medical care, then I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care."

Apparently, this is what it's come to. The desperate are looking to prison for more than just three hots and a cot, they also want a doc.

The Washington Post reports that, according to the inmates handbook, prisoners in North Carolina typically only have to pay a $5 to $7 co-payment for most visits or emergencies. 

"However, no one will be denied access to healthcare whether they have money or not," states the handbook. "You will not be charged for visits about life- or limb-threatening emergencies, referrals to specialty clinics, defined chronic disease such as TB, HIV, high blood pressure, diabetes, pregnancy care, vaccinations, and periodic health assessments."

Verone, unfortunately, caught a bad break. Instead of getting what he desired -- a bank robbery charge that would get him about three years in jail, followed a Florida condo when he's freed (via Social Security payments), he was only slapped with "larceny from a person," which carries a much shorter prison term.

Maybe he should call the judge names at his trial for a charge of contempt of court.

Or, better yet, maybe lawmakers should realize that when Americans are willing to trade in their freedom for healthcare, they may stoop to more desperate measures than holding up banks for a buck. 



N.C. man admits to robbing bank to get free prison healthcare

James Verone

(Credit: WFMY)

(CBS/WFMY) Gaston County, NC - How far would you go to get a doctor's appointment?

A Charlotte-area man without health insurance says he robbed a bank earlier this month because he needed medical attention and thought a prison sentence would be the best way to get it, reports CBS affiliate WFMY.

James Verone, 59, says he walked into an RBC Bank in Gaston County, North Carolina and passed a note to the teller demanding $1 - then waited to be arrested.

The unemployed bank bandit says he thought jail was the best place to get medical care and a roof over his head.

Verone said he was hoping for a three-year sentence so when released he would be old enough to collect social security. Planning ahead, he says he's already spoken to a realtor about purchasing a condo in Myrtle Beach.

Verone told local TV station WCNC he had never been in trouble with the law before.

"If it's called manipulation, then, out of necessity, because I need medical care, then I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care," he told the station.

Unfortunately for the would-be bank robber, stealing $1 was only enough to get him charged with larceny from a person rather than a more serious bank robbery charge. With a conviction on that charge, Verone will likely spend less than three years in prison. 

Makes you wonder what else he might come up with.

US man stages $1 bank robbery to get state healthcare

Unemployed and without health insurance, man in North Carolina has himself arrested in order to receive treatment

Tuesday 21 June 2011 18.41 BST

James Verone
James Verone at Gaston county jail: the North Carolina man attempted a robbery of one dollar at a bank in order to be given medical treatment. Photograph: Ben Goff/The Gaston Gazette

It was not perhaps the most obvious way of getting a bad back, arthritis and a dodgy foot seen to. But if you're unemployed in North Carolina with no health insurance, there is no obvious way.

So on 9 June James Verone left his Gastonia home, took a ride to a bank and carried out a robbery. Well, sort of.

What he did was hand the clerk a note that said: "This is a bank robbery, please only give me one dollar." Then, as he later told the local NBC news station, he calmly sat in the corner of the bank having told the clerk: "I'll be sitting right over there in the chair waiting for the police."

Before his peculiarly modest robbery, Verone, 59, sent a letter to the Gaston Gazette. "When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me for one dollar. I am of sound mind but not so much sound body."

He invited the paper to send a reporter to interview him in Gaston county jail, where he is now in custody facing charges of stealing from a person (for just $1 the prosecutors didn't think they could hold up a bank robbery charge).

He told the paper he had lost his job after 17 years as a Coca-Cola delivery man, and with it his health insurance. He was in increasing pain from slipped discs, arthritic joints, a gammy foot and a growth on his chest.

Since being in the jail he has attained his goal: he has been seen by nurses and an appointment with a doctor is booked.

James Richard Verone peers through the glass of a visitation booth at the Gaston County Jail on Thursday June 16, 2011, where he is being held while awaiting trial for an alleged bank robbery. (Ben Goff / The Gazette)

Bank robber planned crime and punishment

Gaston Gazette

James Richard Verone woke up June 9 with a sense of anticipation.

He took a shower.

Ironed his shirt.

Hailed a cab.

Then robbed a bank.

He wasn't especially nervous. If anything, Verone said he was excited to finally execute his plan to gain access to free medical care.

"I prepared myself for this," Verone said from behind a thick glass window in the Gaston County Jail Thursday morning.

Verone spoke calmly about the road that led him to a jail cell he shares with a young man arrested for stealing computers.

The 59-year-old man apologized for squinting. He hadn't gotten his eyeglasses returned to him since being arrested a week ago.

He smiled from the other side of the glass, sometimes gesturing with his hands. A plastic, red bracelet with his mug shot clung to his left wrist.

Until last week Verone had never been in trouble with the law.

Now he hopes to be booked as a felon and held in prison where he can be treated for several physical afflictions.

Medical challenges

Verone worked for Coca-Cola for 17 years. He prided himself on keeping his nose to the grindstone. Don't make enemies. Sell the product. Make your deliveries and stick to your schedule.

When his career as a cola delivery man ended some three years ago, Verone was knocked out of his comfort zone.

He hopped back in the saddle driving a truck. But that employment didn't have near the longevity, and Verone found himself jobless.

He lived off of savings and sought a part-time job.

Not his first choice, Verone became a convenience store clerk. But the bending, standing and lifting were too much for him. The Gastonia man's back ached; problems with his left foot caused him to limp. His knuckles swelled from arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome made daily tasks difficult.

Then he noticed a protrusion on his chest.

Strapped for cash, Verone looked into filing for disability. He applied for early Social Security.

The only thing Verone qualified for was food stamps. The extra money helped, but he felt desperate. He needed to get medical attention, and he refused to be a burden on his sister and brothers.

"The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept," he said. "I kind of hit a brick wall with everything."

Last resort

A couple of months ago Verone started weighing his options.

He considered turning to a homeless shelter and seeking medical help through charitable organizations.

Then he had another idea: commit a crime and get set up with a place to stay, food and doctors.

He started planning.

As his bank account depleted and the day of execution got closer, Verone sold and donated his furniture. He paid his last month's rent and gave his notice.

He moved into the Hampton Inn for the last couple of days. Then on June 9 he followed his typical morning routine of getting ready for the day.

He took a cab down New Hope Road and picked a bank at random — RBC Bank.

Verone didn't want to scare anyone. He executed the robbery the most passive way he knew how.

He handed the teller a note demanding one dollar, and medical attention.

"I didn't have any fears," said Verone. "I told the teller that I would sit over here and wait for police."

The teller, however, did have some fears even though Verone never showed a weapon.

Her blood pressure shot up and once Verone was handcuffed by police, the teller was taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital to be checked out.

Verone said he was sorry for causing the woman any pain.

Political statement

Verone says he's not a political man.

But he has a lot to say on the subject of socialized medical care. He suspects he wouldn't be talking to a reporter through a metal screen wearing an orange jumpsuit if such an option were available in the U.S.

"If you don't have your health you don't have anything," said Verone.

The man has high hopes with his recent incarceration.

He has seen several nurses and has an appointment with a doctor Friday.

The ideal scenario would include back and foot surgery and a diagnosis and treatment of the protrusion on his chest, he said. He would serve a few years in prison and get out in time to collect Social Security and move to the beach.

Crime and punishment

Verone expected to be charged with bank robbery.

Because he only demanded $1, he was charged with larceny from a person. Still a felony, the count doesn't carry as much jail time as bank robbery.

The bearded, gray-haired man plans to represent himself in court. He's trying not to get too confident about his knowledge of the legal system. He just wants to prepare a statement for the judge and then take whatever active sentence he is given.

Verone is considering an ultimatum if the penalty isn't great enough, he said.

The crime will happen again.

On the record

The day Verone set out to commit his first felony, he mailed a letter to The Gazette.

He listed the return address as the Gaston County Jail.

"When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me. This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar," he wrote. "I am of sound mind but not so much sound body."

Verone wanted to talk to a reporter to make sure people knew why he turned to crime. He figured he had nothing to lose.

"I knew that a felony would not hurt me. I cannot work anymore," he said. "That felony is going to hurt my reputation."

Behind bars

Verone has been in jail for a week.

His $100,000 bond has been reduced to $2,000.

He doesn't intend to pay it. His residence is now the Gaston County Jail.

He goes to breakfast and lunch each day but skips dinner. Dinner means nearly four hours in the general jail population, and Verone said he likes to minimize contact with other inmates.

"I stay very quiet," he said.

Verone said he hears the other men talk about the revolving door that jail has become for them.

He hopes he doesn't join the ranks of the repeat offender.

But today, he has no regrets about the robbery or where it landed him.

"If I had not exercised all the alternatives I would be sitting here saying, 'Man I feel bad about it,'" he said.

But Verone said he thinks he made the right choice for his situation.

"I picked jail."

You can reach Diane Turbyfill at 704-869-1817.

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