BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A fisherman featured on the reality show "Wicked Tuna" pleaded not guilty Monday to federal fraud charges that he collected government benefits while claiming to be disabled.
The indictment handed down last month says Paul Hebert, 50, of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Barre, Vermont, accepted more than $44,000 in Social Security and Medicaid benefits between 2010 and 2013.
Prosecutors say while Hebert was seen manning big fishing rods and harpooning huge fish on the National Geographic Channel reality show, he was at the same time claiming he was unable to work, with no income, no vehicle and no assets. They say during that period he was actually living with a woman and his child, owned a vehicle, and, at one point, a home.
If convicted Hebert faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of four counts in the indictment.
Hebert's attorney did not return a call seeking comment. National Geographic did not return an email seeking comment.
Wicked Tuna began airing in 2012. It follows several Gloucester-based boats trying to land bluefin tuna, which can weigh hundreds of pounds and fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
Hebert is featured on the show driving the boat and fishing, including harpooning a tuna.
A 2012 profile of Hebert in a Massachusetts newspaper described him as "one of the most animated characters" on the show. It says Hebert is a third-generation tuna fisherman who is the youngest of six boys.