Opinion: Payback for crime (instead of prison time that cost money)

POSTED: 03/25/14 8:34 PM

Nickels make dimes, dimes make dollar and dollars make you a rich sonofabitch. In short, that sums up the mentality of the mafia in the twenties and thirties of last century. Thomas Rica, a civil servant in the American village of Ridgewood (25,000 inhabitants) must have picked up on that philosophy when he started stealing quarters from the city.

Those quarters came from parking meters and the city stored them in a room at city hall. Rica managed to enter that room for an uninterrupted stretch of 25 months. Every time he left, his pockets were bulging with quarters. All in all, he stole 1.8 million quarters for a total value of $450,000.

In January of last year, Rica lost his job after he was caught with $500 worth of stolen quarters in his pockets. The authorities started an investigation and found out that the sneaky civil servant had stolen much more than that.

A court condemned the 43-year-old for three counts of theft. He has to repay the $450,000 to the village. The court gave him five years – the complete term of his probation – to do this.

We figure that Rica will have to go elsewhere to steal some more quarters if he wants to accomplish this task, because the court order means that he will have to fork over $7,500 per month sixty times in a row.

Everybody understands that Rica will not be able to come up with that kind of money. Still, we like the punishment, certainly as an alternative for prison time. After all, prison cells cost money, and the objective of the court ruling is to make Rica pay for his crime. Sounds like a plan for St. Maarten where prison cells are in short supply.

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