James Verone: The Medical Motive for his $1 Bank Robbery

James Verone, 59, says he robbed a N.C. bank to get health care in prison.

June 21, 2011, 2:44 PM

June 23, 2011— -- James Verone said he hoped his $1 bank robbery would earn him a three-year jail sentence, during which he could undergo surgery on his back and his foot and have a painful lump on his chest diagnosed and treated. After that, the 59-year-old from Gastonia, N.C., would move to Myrtle Beach to collect his social security, he told local reporters.

But the charge Verone faces for the June 9 heist, larceny from a person, is unlikely to keep him behind bars for more than 12 months. He is being held in Gaston County Jail, where he has already been seen by several nurses, on a $2,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court June 28. And if his sentence is too short, Verone said he plans to rob again.

The robbery followed three years of hardship for Verone, who after losing his job of 17 years as a Coca-Cola delivery man tried desperately to land steady work, according to reports. But after short stints as a truck driver and a part time convenience store clerk, Verone was once again jobless, forced to live off savings and food stamps.

Without health insurance, Verone tolerated chronic back aches and a pain in his left foot that made him limp. But when he noticed a lump on his chest, he knew he had to do something.

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

Verone said he "exercised all the alternatives" before planning to rob the Gastonia bank, which he chose at random, for a dollar, according to reports. As the day approached, Verone paid his last month's rent, donated his furniture and moved into a Hampton Inn. And on the morning of June 9, before hailing a cab to the bank, he mailed a letter to the Gaston Gazette.

"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, wanting people to understand that the motive for his crime was medical, not monetary. "I am of sound mind but not so much sound body."

At 1 pm, Verone handed a bank teller a note demanding a single dollar and claiming to have a gun. The teller who received his perplexing request made a frantic 911 call, and was later taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital for high blood pressure, according to local reports. Verone is said to be sorry for causing her any pain.

Verone, in contrast, waited calmly on a sofa in the bank's lobby for police to arrive.

"I didn't have any fears," Verone told local reporters. "If you don't have your health you don't have anything."

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