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Fishing for Fraud
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Fishing for Fraud

When disability insurers suspect that recipients are faking injuries, they often use surveillance cameras to prove otherwise. They might video tape the "disabled" performing strenuous work at home or in a workplace. Video cameras might be hidden in gym bags, briefcases, even lapel pins. Video evidence can be essential in proving that people are fully capable of working.

Which brings us to Paul Hebert, a "disabled" fisherman operating out of the scenic port of Gloucester MA. The Associated Press reports that Hebert collected social security disability benefits from 2010 through 2013 due to his inability to perform his job as a fisherman: he alleged that he could not work, could not walk easily, could not lift heavy weights and could only drive short distances. With such extensive disabilities, we might expect to find him collapsed on a sofa, watching reality TV. In fact, given his interest in fishing, he might well enjoy episodes of "Wicked Tuna," a show on the National Geographic Channel that followed boats out of Gloucester Harbor hunting for blue fin tuna.

If Hebert chanced to turn on the show, he would actually see himself piloting a boat into the Atlantic Ocean. He could watch with pride as he grabbed lines and harpooned the massive fish, all the while entertaining the camera crew with his witty banter.

Hebert has been indicted by federal prosecutors for social security fraud: he collected over $44,000 in disability and Medicaid benefits. Prosecutors should have no difficulty submitting the video evidence. It remains to be seen if Hebert's attorneys will claim he was just "having a few good days" when the video was shot. In this instance, the harpoon appears to have nailed the fisherman and the tuna, for once, got away.

Jon Coppelman

Senior Workers' Compensation Specialist

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