A Sumter man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to instigating a bizarre and cruel scheme that resulted in the chainsaw amputation of a mentally handicapped man’s left hand to get $671,000 in insurance proceeds.
David Player will be sentenced at a later date by Judge Cameron Currie, who presided over the plea hearing at the Matthew Perry U.S. courthouse in Columbia. Player could receive 20 years in prison.
Specifically, Player pleaded guilty to one count of felony mail fraud, a charge the FBI was able to make because he received his illegally gotten insurance payments through the U.S. mail.
For years, Player was the legal guardian of a mentally handicapped man, Michael Weaver, receiving and managing his monthly Social Security checks, according to an indictment in the case. Player had the power of attorney for Weaver and could make all sorts of legally binding, financial and other decisions for him.
Player took out insurance policies on the man that would pay off in the event of his death or dismemberment. As the legal representative, Player had the legal status to collect the money and spend it, according to court filings.
According to prosecutors and court papers, Player recruited a longtime friend to help him saw off Weaver’s hand. The friend, Gerald “Trey” Hardin III, pleaded guilty last month before Currie. Had Player insisted on a trial, Hardin was ready to testify against him.
The dismemberment of Weaver took place in 2008, when Player and Hardin tied Weaver’s left arm to a tree with rags, stretched it out, then lopped it off below the elbow with a pole chainsaw, assistant U.S. Attorney Dean Eichelberger said in court last month.
The break in the case that resulted in Hardin’s plea didn’t come for several years. Player’s wife, who had filed for divorce, passed along information to federal authorities, causing the FBI to investigate, prosecutors said.
Player’s wife had found a briefcase full of credit cards in Weaver’s name and turned them over to her attorney. Her attorney then turned the cards over to FBI agent Ron Grosse, Eichelberger said.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.