CHICAGO (AP) -Former Chicago Bears fullback Roland Harper admitted Tuesday he acted as a front man in a fraud involving a $1.5 million Chicago Public Schools landscaping contract reserved for minority firms.
Harper, 55, appeared before U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah and pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud.
Prosecutors are recommending about 16 months in federal prison for the one-time starting running back known in his playing days as a punishing blocker who smashed holes in opposing defenses to spring star halfback Walter Payton.
The Bears drafted Harper in 1975. He is sixth on the team's career rushing list with 3,044 yards in seven seasons.
In his signed plea agreement, Harper admitted a firm, Monahan Landscape Co., which has a white owner, supplied the workers and equipment under the contract. Landscaper Aidan Monahan pleaded guilty in the case last week.
``Defendant would go to the office about twice a week, say hello to the workers at Monahan Landscape, then meet with co-defendant Monahan,'' the plea agreement said. ``Typically, those meetings would not last long.''
Harper received only $80,000 out of the contract for landscaping work that went on between February 2003 and September 2006, according to the document. Harper's company, Rohar Construction, received more than $1.5 million but was actually controlled by Monahan, federal documents said.
Monahan had to pay expenses out of the $1.5 million and none of the documents in the case specified exactly how much he got. But Monahan agreed to pay a $100,000 forfeiture amount while Harper agreed to forfeit $50,000.
Harper's attorney, Patrick Cotter, said last week when prosecutors unveiled the charges that Harper was ``a good man who made a bad decision'' and had hoped Monahan would mentor him in the landscaping business.
Advisory federal guidelines call for a sentence of 33 months to 41 months in prison. Prosecutors are recommending half of the minimum 33 months if Harper follows through with his pledge to cooperate against other unnamed individuals who may have been part of the scheme.
But Harper's attorneys are free to ask Darrah to ignore the government's recommendation and Darrah could even put Harper on probation.
Darrah set sentencing for Oct. 14.

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