An upstate New York man said he purposely sought to get himself arrested so he could return to prison. He said he wanted to go back to jail in order to receive health care.
Frank Morrocco, of Amherst, N.Y., served 20 years in a federal prison after being convicted of drug charges. Released from prison last year, Morrocco reportedly sought to get himself arrested on a new charge on purpose so he could return to jail.
According to media reports, on Nov. 26 Morrocco, 56, made a conscious effort to get caught stealing, presumably so he would violate his parole. Officials at an Amherst, N.Y. Wegmans store said he had taken a pair of sandals, a small stuffed animal, shoe laces and other items into a shopping basket and then walked out of the store without paying.
Police were called and he was charged with petty larceny.
Morrocco, who has what is described to be a rare form of leukemia, said he intentionally got arrested since he needs medical treatment and hoped a judge would send him back to federal prison. He said he is not eligible for Medicaid or other types of government run health benefits because he has over $2,500 in assets he's saved from working, noting his earnings as a car buyer do not provide a steady income.
“I’ve been denied [Medicaid] and also was denied Social Security disability coverage. I was told it was because I have more than $2,500 in assets,” Morrocco told the Buffalo News. “I do have more than $2,500 in assets, but I am not a wealthy man. I barely get by, and I can’t afford the $500 to $600 it would cost me a month for [private] health care coverage.”
He called his actions one of "desperation", noting he took items from Wegmans he did not need and made an effort toe ensure people saw him stealing.
The Buffalo News reported that since this arrest, a family member and two friends have offered to assist in helping him pay for health insurance.
“I wasn’t thinking straight when I did this. I did not know that I had people in my life who would help me,” Morrocco said, telling the media he's now having "second thoughts" about his decision to steal from Wegmans.
Morrocco is reportedly not the first to intentionally get arrested in hopes of going to prison for healthcare. In June 2011, a man attempted to rob a bank for $1 for the same reason.
"I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care," James Verone, of North Carolina, told local media at the time.
According to the West Orlando News (via Huffington Post), in 2009 the Florida prison system saw an increase in crimes committed by people who had never been in trouble before because they wanted to access the prison healthcare system.
At the time of Verone's intentional $1 bank holdup, Mansfield Frazier wrote a piece last year in The Daily Beast entitled, "Prison’s Cheap Health-Care Secret." He noted that "thousands" of people had been taking this approach for years, but with Verone's blatant admission of getting arrested on purpose, this "jig is up" as others would likely follow suit.
Morrocco is due back in Amherst court on Jan. 31 to answer to the shoplifting arrest.