SC man pleads guilty in grisly fraud case
COLUMBIA — A Cayce man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal fraud charge, acknowledging his role in an insurance scheme that cost a mentally disabled man his left hand.
Gerald B. Hardin told U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie during a court appearance in Columbia that he used a pole saw to cut off the hand of a mentally disabled man in Sumter County in 2008.
Hardin, 34, originally had faced six fraud charges. But under a plea deal with prosecutors, those counts were dropped, and Hardin was allowed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. In return for that felony plea, Hardin has agreed to help prosecutors in their case against a third man, David Player.
Player had taken out accidental death and dismemberment insurance policies against the mentally disabled man and, since 1995, had been the listed recipient of the man’s supplemental security income benefits, which he received because of his disability. In May 2008, prosecutors said, Player convinced Hardin to help him cut off the man’s hand for a share of insurance money Player said he would get from filing claims.
In court, both prosecutors and Hardin described how the mentally disabled man, Michael “Porky” Weaver, was a willing participant in the scheme and viewed Player as a father figure.
The men had originally told authorities they had been trimming trees at Player’s home when Hardin dropped the saw, cutting off Weaver’s hand. But in court on Tuesday, Hardin said Player had used rags to tie Weaver’s arm to a tree limb while Hardin deliberately wielded the saw, which was described as similar to a weed eater with an 8-inch chain saw-style blade at the end.
According to Hardin, Player said he had researched what to do online and wrapped a tourniquet of sorts around the injury.
“I was on drugs real bad at the time,” Hardin said, telling the judge he was addicted to crack cocaine then. “I asked Porky if he wanted to do that. I didn’t want to do it, really.”