Marine veteran accused of stolen valor arrested for disability fraud

 September 4, 2023

A former Marine who lied about being injured by an explosion in Iraq has been charged with stealing veterans' benefits.

Paul John Herbert, 52, is facing up to 10 years in prison following his arrest Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts.

He is accused of stealing some $344,000 in disability benefits and using a fake story to apply for a Purple Hart.

Herbert, who served in active duty between 1989 and 1993 and the reserves from 1993 to 1995, claimed to be the only survivor of an improvised explosive device (IED) while protecting Kurdish refugees in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

Marine charged

The marine admitted last year to the Greenfield Recorder that his stories were untrue and apologized for the fraud. He said he did it for reasons of pride - although he also fleeced deserving veterans of $343,000 between January 2010 and March of this year.

“I just needed to feel important. I started feeling important and feeling good about myself and I didn’t know a way to get out,” Herbert said.

"I know I hurt a lot of people that trusted me and cared about me and everything else… I didn't want any of that stuff. I got mad at myself. I hated myself. I still hate myself for this."

Herbert is charged with one count of theft of government money and one count of making false statements. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for the theft and five years for lying.

“Every day, thousands of brave members of the military selflessly risk their lives to protect our country," U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Joshua S. Levy, sad.

"Stealing from our country’s veterans or claiming valor where there is none is an insult to the honorable service members who sacrifice for our safety.”

Stolen valor

Herbert admitted to plagiarizing details from another veteran who was seriously wounded, Christopher Demars, a recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor.

Demars, the deputy director of The Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services, grew suspicious of Herbert when he heard him recounting his story - which included riveting details about waking up to the sound of a rescue helicopter's rotor.

“I told him that [expletive] story and he [expletive] used it,” Demars said.

Herbert's story was also never mentioned in discharge papers - and there was one more red flag.

“IEDs were not a thing until Afghanistan and Iraq,” Demars said.

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