A Florida toll collector says he lost the job he had for nearly 30 years after paying a toll for someone (video below).
Vladislav Samsonov, who goes by the nickname Sam, was a familiar face on the Boca Grande Causeway, reports WBBH News.
In an interview with WBBH, Samsonov says he was let go recently by the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority after he paid $5 out of his own pocket for a driver pulling a trailer. He told WBBH he realized he undercharged the driver and paid for the mistake with his own cash.
"In my eyes there was no crime committed, I just helped somebody out," he said.
It was something the military veteran would do from time to time — cover costs for drivers who got caught without cash for the toll. A lot of times they’d pay him back.
"I'd put the $6 in, I got the $6 back the next day," Samsonov said.
The 77-year-old said he had been told by management to stop covering costs for drivers, but he had never been formally reprimanded. With the most recent incident, the authority reportedly offered to cut his shifts to two days a week, but he declined and was let go.
“If I can't be trusted for five days, how can I be trusted for two days?” he said.
The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority declined to comment when reached by WBBH, citing a policy against discussing personnel matters.
But many who knew Samsonov from the bridge had plenty to say.
Jason Rice told WBBH he will miss seeing Samsonov in his booth.
“My son, he would go over there and [Samsonov] would always give him lollipops and give the dogs bones,” Rice said. “This doesn't sit well with me, what happened.”
Others who responded to the story posted on WBBH’s Facebook page echoed Rice’s feelings. Over 550 comments have been posted, most of them supportive of Samsonov.
“Sad ... he would give my dog biscuits when we went thru the toll,” wrote Facebook user Lori Lada Bemis.
“Good luck finding another loyal employee that is going to stick around for 30 years. Absolutely unbelievable!!” wrote user Diane Nadotti.
Samsonov says he will likely find somewhere to volunteer his time.
It’s not the money he will miss from his old job, he said; it’s the people. Samsonov called the drivers his “family.”
“After 29 years, you can't help it. I gave children suckers 22, 23 years ago,” he said. “Now I'm giving those children suckers for their children.”