Manuel Parga paid a high price for two candy bars worth 89 cents from two decades ago.
The Little Havana man was about to land a new public housing apartment but failed the background check because he missed a court date back in 1991. He was supposed to appear there because of the chocolate he admits he stole from a Miami store.
Parga needs a new home, saying that his efficiency in the heart of little Havana is too small and too cold.
It turned out that there had been a warrant out for his arrest for more than two decades – and the county's public housing agency denied his application.
“We would run across this often with people who thought they had resolved their cases in the ‘80s or early ‘90s,” said Parga’s defense lawyer, Eduardo Pereira. “Now they’re older citizens and they’re running into problems with Social Security benefits or with disability issues.”
The crime happened back in 1991 at a downtown Miami store that doesn't even exist anymore. Parga admits he stole the two chocolate bars, was charged with a misdemeanor – and believed that his case was dismissed. But it wasn't.
Parga said he had the money to pay for the candy, but didn’t “for play, for play, you know,” he said, laughing.
But it turned out to be a big mistake for him, he said.
Along came Pereira, who cleared Parga's criminal record and cleared the way for him to move into a new home.
“Mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, could be arrested on something that they would have been given a ticket for but because there is this warrant in the system, they are taken into the jail because the officer won't have discretion,” Pereira said. “So it’s important, once you find out about things like this, to get help right away.”
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