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SC Man Lets Friend Cut Off Hand in Mail Fraud Scam

A South Carolina man who dismembered a friend in attempt to collect insurance money pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud on Tuesday, August 21.

Gerald Hardin III, of Cayce, pleaded guilty in Federal court to sawing off the hand of Michael “Pork chop” Weaver to collect roughly $671,000 from insurance policies taken out by co-conspirator, David Player. The policies would pay out if Weaver were to die or to become dismembered, according to The State newspaper. Mail Fraud covers insurance scams

A “Crack head” and an Alcoholic

Weaver, 52, is a “mentally disabled…illiterate, alcoholic,” according to authorities. Weaver, who was in on the scheme, allowed Hardin and Player to tie his arm around the tree with rags, stretching it out, and then cutting it off with a pole saw.

Hardin stated that at the time of the act, “I was on drugs real bad at the time…crack cocaine,” according to U.S. District Court Judge Cameron Currie. Hardin made his statement prior to pleading guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit federal mail fraud.

The scheme unfolded when Player’s wife discovered documents during a divorce proceeding against him, according to the State. Player’s wife found a briefcase stuffed with credit cards in Weaver’s name. She gave the cards and the documents to her attorney who then turned them over to federal officials. The FBI opened an investigation into the documents.

One Smart Doctor

Doctors thought the cut looked too clean to be true. An orthopedist told authorities that the hand was “completely severed at a right angle to the forearm…a surprisingly clean cut and one that had minimal shredding of the flesh,” according to the State.The case received a big break when doctor’s noticed something odd about Weaver’s dismemberment. Following the incident, Hardin and Player took Weaver to hospital, claimed they had lost control of the chainsaw while trimming the tree, and severed Weaver’s hand. Doctors tried to reattach the hand, but had to re-amputate it a week later.

U.S. District Attorney Dean Eichelberger stated that chainsaw injuries are “virtually always jagged, at compound angles and demonstrate signs of skipping over the bone.”

Key “Players” in the Case

Player held the Power of Attorney for Weaver since 1995. The two men grew up together, according to U.S. Attorney’s Officer Spokesperson Winston Holliday. Player used his role as Power of Attorney to open multiple insurance policies in Weaver’s name. In the event of death or dismemberment, Player stood to collect on the policies.Eichelberger states, “Mr. Player is the prime mover in this case.”

“They were really close, “ Holliday states of the relationship between Weaver and Player. “Weaver looked up to him,” he said.

Player talked Weaver into the scheme by promising to pay off Weaver’s moped and buy him a new trailer.

Prosecutors are choosing not to charge Weaver in the case because of his low mental capacity, according to Holliday.

In regards to the money paid out after the incident, Player spent about $292,000 of the insurance proceeds by the time police caught up to him. Hardin was supposed to receive $5,000 for his involvement in the scheme, according to Holliday. Player decided to pay Hardin much less than the $5,000 because rent payments and cash given to fund Hardin’s crack habit would serve as credit to the original amount agreed upon.

Hardin is set to testify against Player in November. Prior to the plea deal, Hardin would have faced upwards of 120 years in prison for six counts of mail fraud. He now faces five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution payments, according to the State newspaper.

Player’s attorney, Mike Duncan, told the media that, “Mr. Player cared for Mr. Weaver over many years without compensation and denies involvement in any wrongdoing.”

Hardin’s sentencing is set for November 22.

South Carolina Fraud Attorneys

If you or a loved one is facing mail fraud charges or any other fraud charges, you need to contact a South Carolina fraud attorney. The South Carolina fraud attorneys at the Strom Law Firm understand what is at stake when you are with fraud. Fraud is considered a white collar crime, meaning, it is usually financially motivated and nonviolent. We understand fraud charges can be damaging both professionally and personally, which is why we fight aggressively to clear your name. Call us today for a free confidential consultation. 803.252.4800.

About Pete Strom

Defending criminal charges including drug crimes, DUI, CDV, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, computer crimes, money laundering, and juvenile crimes, Pete also handles Federal and State investigations. Representing individuals in Civil Matters including Class Actions, Personal Injury, Qui Tam Actions, Defective Products, Nursing Home Neglect, and Professional Licensing Defense cases. Joseph Preston “Pete” Strom, Jr., the managing partner at Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., has been fighting for justice since 1984.

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