A former U.S. Marine from western Massachusetts was arrested following an indictment in federal court alleging he had lied about his service experiences to receive disability benefits and even tried for a Purple Heart he hadn’t earned.
Paul John Herbert, 52, of Shelburne Falls, was arrested Friday following an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury sitting in Springfield the day before. The indictment charges him with theft of government property and making false statements. He was released from custody following an initial appearance in court.
“Individuals who steal veterans disability benefits and falsely represent themselves as decorated veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces degrade the service of the men and women who selflessly serve our country,” said Patrick Hegarty, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Defense, investigative service for the northeast, in a statement.
The false statement charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, while the theft charge carries double the years.
The indictment states the suspect actions occurred between Jan. 1, 2010, through March 1 of this year.
During that time, the indictment alleges, Herbert stole about $344,040 worth of disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
It also alleges that he submitted, through his local congressman, a written request for a Purple Heart award to the U.S. Marine Corps. For this prestigious honor, Herbert purportedly claimed that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury from a roadside explosion while deployed to Northern Iraq.
The Purple Heart is a combat award presented to “members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy,” or awarded to next-of-kin should the recipient be killed in duty, according to the Military Order Of The Purple Heart.
“Mr. Herbert’s alleged conduct is an affront to every veteran who has sacrificed to earn the honor of a Purple Heart and who is deserving of disability benefits,” said U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy.
A man matching Herbert’s name, general location and with a story matching the charges alleged in this indictment was covered by the local newspaper for his region, the Greenfield Recorder, in August if last year.
That story states that the local Veterans Services provider, the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Service District, had launched its own investigation into Herbert’s claims following a speech he had made recalling memories of war that did not match those documented in his discharge papers.
Those stories included being the sole survivor of an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in northern Iraq — a claim a leader of the Service District found particularly incredulous because “IEDs were not a thing until Afghanistan and Iraq.”