Wait until after the holidays, Luis Berrios was told.
Call the District Attorney’s Office. Call police.
All of which he’s done — and none of which has gotten him any closer to a desperately needed victim’s assistance check that he believes was stolen.
In 2018, Berrios was shot and left for dead during a botched robbery outside of his Philadelphia home.
The state’s Victims Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) awarded Berrios about $15,000 to be doled out in several installments that would help him pay his bills while he was out of work and recovering.
The first two checks showed up at his house without any hiccups.
A third check due in June — for $4,502.73 — didn’t arrive as scheduled.
He alerted everyone he could think of, and then boarded the bureaucratic merry-go-round of do-nothings.
And now, almost eight months later, Berrios is in the same place he started.
I was making the rounds on his behalf this week when I remembered I’d been here before.
In 2013, it was a group of ex-offenders who had been cheated out of paychecks they earned 10 years earlier by a politically connected businessman with millions in city contracts who figured no one would care if a bunch of bunch of guys with records got stiffed. He was mostly right.
It took many months and columns, but the men finally got paid.
Apparently doing your job, or the right thing, is still something that doesn’t come naturally to some. Even if you’re paid to do so.
No matter how many times I write about victims getting revictimized, there is still a small part of me that thinks that surely, when presented with valid information, people who are supposed to help will see the error of their ways – even if it takes a little shame to get there.
And yet, VCAP has yet to give Berrios any indication of his check’s status. To me — now, and when I wrote about his case last year — the agency cites confidentiality issues, although Berrios has given permission to share information with me.
There’s also been nothing from Fulton, the bank from which VCAP draws its checks. One of the excuses used for not reissuing the check was that VCAP had to be refunded by the bank first.
The Police Department told me Berrios had to contact East Detectives for a status of his case, which he’s done, several times, starting with the time VCAP sent him a letter with a copy of the check, and the location where it was cashed. Berrios followed the address to a check-cashing store on North Fifth Street and gave all the information to police, including a photo of the man — not him — who cashed the check that he’d gotten from an employee there.
Maybe someone should just deputize Berrios and let him work his own case?
Berrios is beyond thankful for the readers who’ve donated to his GoFundMe. He was recently denied disability benefits, a decision he’s fighting.
I was honest when we talked: I’m not giving up, but I’m also not sure who out there might actually help — as opposed to just saying they will.
Berrios is not giving up either, but he’s rightly frustrated and angry. He forgave his shooters, but he can’t forgive those who call themselves advocates for turning their backs on him and other victims.
He’s been thinking a lot lately, he told me, about people who give up because it’s just too hard to fight, because they’re ignored. (I’m starting to believe some victim advocacy groups bet on that.)
He doesn’t want to be one of them.
“Everyone gets paid off your pain … lawyers, judges, doctors,” he said, “while those who suffer just sit and wait. What a cycle.”