Life hasn’t been kind to 59-year old James Verone, a resident of Gaston County, North Carolina. After losing his job as a delivery man which he held for 17 years, he also lost his health insurance. That’s prevented him from seeking medical help for a number of painful complaints: slipped discs, arthritis and an injured foot.
Faced with mounting health problems, Mr Verone weighed up his options and chose a creative plan that would guarantee him free medical attention. Sadly, the plan would see him also lose his freedom. You see, Mr Verone decided to rob a local bank.
Unlike most bank robbers, his demand for cash was modest – his ransom note demanded just one single dollar. After passing the note to the confused teller, Mr Verone told her: “I’ll be sitting right over there in the chair waiting for the police,” and bank staff say that’s exactly what he did.
Before staging what the authorities have described as the ‘world’s smallest robbery’, Mr Verone mailed a letter to a local newspaper explaining his rationale for the crime:
“When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me. This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar… I am of sound mind but not so much sound body.”
Police investigating the case found that Mr Verone had spent a lot of time planning his unusual heist. Prior to committing the robbery, he’d been sure to pay all his outstanding rent, and also donated his possessions to a local charity. “He was well prepared to go away,” said one source. “Most people in that situation wouldn’t care what mess they left behind, but he thought of everything. It’s actually quite sad he’s had to resort to this just to get medical care.”
Since his arrest, Mr Verone has been held at the Gaston County Jail, where he’s said to have received some medical attention. However, the surgery that he needs to fix his more serious ailments will take time, and the sentence he’ll likely receive will be too short to permit all the operations to be finished.
“I’m advised [Mr Verone] hoped to receive at least a three year sentence,” said one source familiar with the matter. “This would have been enough time for him to get all the surgery he needs in the prison system. Unfortunately, his crime was too minor to warrant a long sentence, and we expect he’ll serve less than twelve months.”
Social media users who commented on Mr Verone’s story shared their sympathy for his plight. “The American reality. What a shame we can spend billions of dollars to kill people in other countries for their oil yet our very own are living in shelters. This is happening more and more but the news media never reports on the homeless,” wrote one woman from Florida.
A Facebook user from Michigan had this to say: “I don’t blame him. In this robber-baron era of heartless capitalism, people have to look out for themselves. Until health care becomes appropriately socialized, as it should have always been, we’ll be hearing more and more stories like this.”
An American living abroad also weighed into the debate, sharing a foreign perspective about healthcare: “I live and teach in Korea and it’s staggering how different the American health care system is from the rest of the world. I pay $50 a month for coverage and I’ve never paid more than $10 for a doctor’s visit. I hope I never require major medical attention here, but I know for a fact that it would be a fraction of what it would cost in America. I miss home but I’m tempted to stay here, simply for that reason. It’s so crazy.”
Assuming Mr Verone is only sentenced to twelve months behind bars, which wouldn’t be long enough to finish his medical procedures, some users suggested he may have to return to a ‘life of crime’, but up the ante a little bit. “He had the right idea, but stealing $1 was not enough,” wrote an Oregon-based reader. “I think he needs to steal a bit more next time to make sure he’s put away for a few years.”