Federal authorities have apprehended former Marine Corps veteran, Paul John ‘P.J.’ Herbert, aged 52, residing in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. The arrest stems from allegations of fraudulent claims related to his military service in the U.S. armed forces.
Herbert’s lies reached an end when he claimed that he was the sole survivor of an enemy Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonation in Iraq. Shockingly, he even went to the extent of submitting a deceptive application for a Purple Heart award, a prestigious military decoration granted to individuals wounded or killed in combat.
Federal charges have been filed against Herbert, accusing him of unlawfully obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars in disability benefits to which he purportedly had no rightful entitlement.
Notably, in the previous year, Herbert had admitted to embellishing his military service and confessing to receiving accolades and financial gains that were unmerited. However, in a recent turn of events, he pleaded not guilty to the charges levied against him.
Herbert’s military service timeline reveals that he served in the Marines on active duty from 1989 to 1993 and subsequently in the reserves from 1993 to 1995.
Surprisingly, fifteen years following his departure from the military, Herbert is alleged to have repeatedly misappropriated and misused approximately $344,040 in disability benefits spanning from January 2010 to March 2023.
In a rather audacious move, Herbert’s application for the Purple Heart, submitted through his local congressman in October 2018, included a fabricated account of suffering a traumatic brain injury resulting from a roadside explosion in Northern Iraq during his deployment. The indictment unambiguously asserts that Herbert’s statement was knowingly false, stating, ‘In truth and fact, as the defendant well knew, his statement was false.’
As a consequence, Herbert now finds himself confronting one count of theft of government funds and another count of making false statements, both of which carry significant legal repercussions.
In the event of a conviction, Herbert could potentially face a maximum prison sentence of ten years for theft of government funds and a maximum of five years for making false statements.
On the legal front, Herbert appeared before a judge on Friday and has been granted release pending his upcoming court appearance.
Herbert’s past narrative painted a vivid picture of his time spent traversing the mountains of Iraq alongside British Royal Marines, where they encountered an IED. He claimed to have been involved in providing safe passage to Kurds escaping Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks, under the aegis of Operation Provide Comfort, which ran from 1991 to 1996.
‘I do think about it, and can sometimes hear the propeller or helicopter noise,’ Herbert recounted to the Hampshire Daily Gazette in 2017.
However, skeptics emerged among fellow veterans who scrutinized Herbert’s stories. They pointed out that IEDs were relatively uncommon prior to the early 2000s, casting doubt on his claims. Some veterans who were acquainted with Herbert and had already perused his discharge documents observed discrepancies between his narratives and his official service record.
Curiously, another local veteran, who had shared their own close brush with death, described hearing the propeller of a helicopter when regaining consciousness, a detail that mysteriously found its way into Herbert’s ‘recollections.’
By August 2022, Herbert eventually confessed publicly to fabricating substantial portions of his personal history. Beyond the Purple Heart deception, for which Herbert’s application was denied, he has reportedly acknowledged wearing over a dozen other ribbons and medals that he had never legitimately earned. This included a Bronze Star Medal, a prestigious combat award, ranking as the fourth-highest in the U.S. military’s hierarchy.
Herbert candidly admitted to the Greenfield Recorder last 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 of it.’ He expressed remorse for the pain he had caused to those who had trusted and cared for him, stating, ‘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’s actions have not only tarnished his reputation but have also impacted genuine recipients of military honors like the Purple Heart. These fraudulent claims are widely regarded as an affront to those who have made profound sacrifices in the service of their nation.
Joshua S. Levy, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, underscored the significance of respecting the sacrifices of authentic service members and strongly condemned fraudulent claims that dishonor their dedication. He emphasized, ‘Every day, thousands of brave members of the military selflessly risk their lives to protect our country. 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.’