Caught! Wicked Tuna star fined $58,000 by the government for claiming he was disabled and couldn’t work despite starring on fishing reality show
- Paul Hebert of Gloucester, Massachusetts stars on the popular National Geographic show Wicked Tuna
- In 2010, he told the government he was so disabled he could work, drive, walk properly or lift heavy weights
- In 2012, he started work on Wicked Tuna, where he routinely reels in bluefin tuna that weigh hundreds of pounds each
A man whose grueling fishing job was featured on reality television while he was receiving government disability benefits was sentenced on Wednesday to spend four years on probation and must pay $58,600 in fines and restitution.
Wicked Tuna star Paul Hebert, of Gloucester, Massachusetts, must also pay $53,600 in restitution and a $5,000 fine and serve four years probation as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Hebert, 51, was charged last summer with accepting more than $44,000 in Social Security and Medicaid disability benefits between 2010 and 2013.
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Paul Hebert, one of the stars of Wicked Tuna, appears in fine form above, but the government thought he was disabled
Hebert (far right) appears as the hard-charging captain of a bluefin tuna fishing boat, in which he routinely drags huge bluefin tuna from the ocean
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of Social Security and Medicaid fraud and was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Burlington.
The Department of Health and Human Services strongly criticized Hebert for what he did.
‘It is outrageous that Paul Hebert pretended to be disabled and poor in order to collect Medicaid benefits while at the same time starring as a captain of a fishing boat in a national TV reality show,’ HHS Boston special agent in charge Phillip M. Coyne said.
Hebert has been on Wicked Tuna since 2012.
He began receiving benefits in October 2010. He stopped receiving payments in 2013, but its unclear if that is because he informed the government of his new job or if he was ‘caught’ on the show.
Hebert, above, took $44,000 in disability and Medicaid payments from the government despite starring in a reality show and working on a fishing boat
The National Geographic Channel show follows several Gloucester-based boats that try to land bluefin tuna, which can weigh hundreds of pounds and fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
Defense attorney Paul Volk said Hebert applied for the disability benefits before he got the job on the television show. He said he and Hebert think it’s a fair resolution to the case.
‘It’s what we negotiated,’ Volk said, noting Hebert’s probation was transferred to Massachusetts.
When Hebert was indicted, prosecutors said he first filed for Social Security disability in the spring of 2009, claiming on his application that he was unable to work at any job, could not walk properly and could not lift heavy weights or drive for more than short distances.
On the show, Hebert fishes off boats for bluefish tuna that weighs several hundred pounds. He also sells branded gear on his own website.
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