Man Robs Bank for $1 to Access Health Care


Is the United States health care system compelling those unable to obtain medical assistance to turn to loopholes in order to exploit the system?

There was nothing out of the ordinary when James Richard Verone got ready for his day on June 9, 2011. He got up, took a shower, put on some clothes, and walked outside to hail cab.

Then he robbed a bank for one dollar and sat in the bank’s lobby to wait for the police to arrest him. Why? For the free health care he would receive as an inmate in the Gaston County Jail, of course.

This is no joke, and it is not a dim-witted plot point in a Michael Moore documentary. An elderly man, nearing senior citizenship status, committed a felony with the sole intent of being arrested and incarcerated in order to receive medical treatment for multiple physical ailments.

James Richard Verone, 59, was arrested after he entered a RCB bank in Gastonia and handed a teller a note that demanded one dollar, which also disclosed that he needed medical help. According to officials, after handing the note to a teller Verone sat down and waited for police to arrive. The officers who arrested Verone reported that he carried no weapon. When asked, Verone explained that he did not want to alarm anyone during the robbery. In the end, he was charged with larceny and is being held in Gaston County jail under a $5,000 bond.

Despite the fact that this 59-year-old man—who had never been in trouble with the law before June 9—is now residing in a small concrete box with a young cellmate who stole computers, and reported that he could not be happier; Verone is finally receiving the health care that he needs. He even said that he hopes to be incarcerated as a felon and held in prison so he can receive treatment for several physical afflictions.

“I prepared myself for this,” Verone said calmly from behind a thick glass window in the Gaston County Jail.

Verone reported that the robbery was his last resort after a series of failed attempts to legitimately gain the health care assistance, which he desperately needed.

His physical pains included a protrusion in his chest, as well as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. With no remaining apparent options, only one grim resort remained, and as Verone’s bank account emptied, it was an option that seemed to be the best choice.

Although it may seem like a drastic last resort, keep in mind that Verone followed the rules of society his entire life, and was subsequently shoved against a wall as he entered old age. The idea of having a place to live, as well as three meals a day and guaranteed health care, could have seemed nothing less than the deal of a lifetime.

As happy as Verone is to be behind bars and receiving medical attention, however, he may not be able to stay there for as long as he would like. Verone attempted to rob the RCB Bank for one dollar, which is not considered grand larceny, and as such, Verone can expect to serve a short stint. However, he is adamant on staying in prison; he sent a letter to the Gaston Gazette the morning of the robbery stating that he would do it again if released, and that he harbored no regrets because he did everything he possibly could in his power to get the health care attention.

Regardless of whether or not one considers him/herself a political person, there is no doubt that this desperate act is a cry for help from the ones who suffer most in our society. Is the United States healthcare system compelling those unable to obtain medical assistance to turn to loopholes in order to exploit the system?

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