- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Gloucester fisherman Paul Hebert, one of the featured cast members on the wildly popular “Wicked Tuna,” has been indicted on federal fraud charges that allege he illegally collected more than $44,000 in Social Security disability and Medicaid benefits between 2010 and 2012.

The four-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Burlington, Vt., said Hebert in October of 2010 knowingly made false statements on his application for Supplemental Security Income benefits by swearing at a hearing that “he was completely disabled and unable to work, which he knew to be false as he was at that time working as a tuna fisherman.”

Neither Hebert nor his Boston attorney Robert Goldstein returned calls yesterday seeking comment. Officials from the National Geographic Channel, which produces and airs “Wicked Tuna,” also did not return calls.

Goldstein told the Associated Press his client was innocent.

The indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt. also states that after initially being rejected for the SSI benefits, Hebert, 50, was awarded benefits in November 2010.

It said he received a total of $34,555.88 from the Social Security Administration between November 2010 and April 2013 — a period of time that brackets his appearance on the nationally televised reality show that highlights the physical rigors, hardships and dangers of fishing for giant bluefin tuna.

“He received a letter summarizing his own statements, including that he was living alone, that he had no other resources other than $25, and that his only income was $56 monthly from the State of Vermont, plus food stamps,” the federal indictment stated.

That letter, according to the indictment, also said Hebert was obliged to report any changes in his living conditions, including starting to work or an increase in his income.

“Paul Hebert concealed and failed to disclose such events to SSA, including changes in his income, his housing address and his living arrangements with an intent fraudulently to secure SSI benefits to a greater amount or quantity than he was due and when no such benefit was authorized,” the indictment charged.

Hebert, according to the indictment, also received $9,506 in Medicaid benefits from the State of Vermont between February 2009 and October 2012 while claiming he lived alone, had no income or vehicle and no assets.

During that time, the indictment states, Hebert was living with a woman and their child, “he owned a vehicle, and at least beginning in October 2010, he earned money through fishing and later through his television work,” the third count of the indictment charged. “He also owned a housing unit during part of that period.

“Paul Hebert, in a matter involving a health care benefit program, knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed and covered up by trick, scheme and device material facts in connection with the payment for health care benefits, items and services.”

Hebert, originally from Marshfield, has had a tumultuous run since “Wicked Tuna” initially aired in April 2012.

Initially, he was the first mate on F/V Tuna.com before Capt. Dave Carraro fired him. He then joined the crew of the F/V Bounty Hunter and later he captained the F/V Lisa & Jake and the F/V Miss Sambvca in 2014 — where he famously battled with his brother and first mate, Bruce Hebert.

Hebert, according to a 2012 story in The Patriot Ledger newspaper, is a third-generation tuna fisherman who grew up as the youngest of Estelle and Don Hebert’s six boys.

“Tuna fishing is all I ever wanted to do,” the story quotes Hebert. “It’s all I ever wanted to do. It’s all my family has ever done. I don’t have another job. I’m not a mechanic. I’m not a car salesman. This is it. This is all I got.”

Hebert is due back in court Aug. 10.


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