A South Philadelphia man pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to stealing his brother's identity in connection with a scheme to fleece the Veterans Administration for free medical benefits at a methadone clinic.

Carlton Outlaw, 58, of Taylor Street near Mifflin, pleaded guilty to health-care fraud, theft of public funds and identity theft.

Outlaw wasn't entitled to the free benefits, authorities said, because he had been discharged from the military under less-than-honorable circumstances.

Prosecutors declined to say what those circumstances were, but it was not related to heroin addiction, Outlaw said in response to a question from U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick.

The government's plea memorandum said Outlaw obtained free medical treatment - worth $378,542 - in the Philadelphia VA center's methadone clinic using the identity of his brother.

Court papers said Outlaw obtained and began using a VA identification card in March 1998.

The card bore his own photograph but the name of his brother, his brother's social security number and his brother's birth date. The brother, who had been honorably discharged, was entitled to free VA benefits.

Court papers said Outlaw, on multiple occasions, signed his brother's name on official forms authorizing treatment.

The scheme lasted until January 2007.

The feds' plea memo said Outlaw's scheme unraveled after his brother contacted the VA when his wages were garnisheed for medical bills related to methadone treatment and said he had not received any such treatment.

The brother confirmed for VA officials that he had not submitted any VA benefit applications and that he recognized the photographs on the VA cards as that of the defendant.

Had Outlaw not pleaded guilty, his brother was prepared to testify against him, the plea memo said.

Outlaw remains free on $50,000 unsecured bond and must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Surrick set sentencing for June 8. Outlaw faces 18 to 24 months behind bars under preliminary advisory guidelines based on stipulations in his plea agreement.