Allegations that artist Robert Indiana paid teenagers on Vinalhaven for sex in the 1980s resurfaced last week when a Waldoboro man was sentenced for Social Security fraud for not reporting income – described by his lawyer as “hush money” – that he received from Indiana in the two decades preceding the artist’s death.

In court documents filed during the sentencing proceedings, Wayne Flaherty, 53, of Waldoboro blamed his downward spiral on abuse he said he suffered by Indiana four decades ago, rekindling allegations that Indiana paid local men and boys for sex in the 1980s. Indiana was acquitted of one charge in 1992.

Flaherty, who pleaded guilty in January, was sentenced on May 20 to three years of probation with 240 hours of community service. He also was ordered to pay $141,214 in restitution to the Social Security Administration.

Prosecutors said Flaherty knowingly concealed that he received money from Indiana from 2000 to 2018, during which time he also received Social Security benefits. Indiana died in May 2018 at age 89 at his home on Vinalhaven Island. According to court records, Flaherty earned at least $1,500 per month from Indiana when he applied for benefits, and his pay increased with time. Flaherty received at least $846,615.18 from February 2012 through July 2017, according to prosecutors. Indiana also bought Flaherty a home in Waldoboro in February 2012. The government requested a sentence of eight months of home confinement, three years of supervised release and restitution.

In Flaherty’s sentencing memo, his lawyer, David Beneman, described the money Flaherty received from Indiana as “hush money” for sexual favors beginning when Flaherty was a teenager in the 1980s. “These were payments he told no one about as they were linked to the years of sexual abuse he suffered, abuse which has colored his life, undermined his self-respect and self-esteem and left him with (post-traumatic stress disorder), guilt (and) fear,” his lawyer wrote.

Indiana, who moved to Vinalhaven to live full time in the Star of Hope Lodge in 1978 and is best known his images of “LOVE” and “HOPE,” is identified as “Individual A” in the court documents, but Flaherty confirmed Indiana’s identity during a brief phone call Wednesday. “I didn’t work for him. I just kept going back out there to get what was right,” he said. “I wanted an apology, but that never happened. He was a sick man.”

Flaherty declined to discuss his relationship with Indiana, saying he did not want to be interviewed. He said “everybody” was lying about him “about everything,” including the prosecuting attorney. “I never got $841,000 off Bob. I wish. I might have blown $300,000, but not $800,000,” he said. “I had to plead guilty to it. I didn’t want to fight it and drag it out.”

Indiana was charged with paying men and boys for sex in 1990 and found not guilty when the case went to trial in 1992. He was charged with three counts, two of which were dropped when a witness refused to cooperate. At the time, prosecutors complained they were hampered by a judge’s ruling excluding key evidence.

In court documents, Flaherty offered contradictory information about when the abuse occurred. In one presentence investigation report, he said the abuse began when he was “approximately 13 years old,” about 1981. Later, he said the abuse began when he was 16, after he had returned to Rockland to live with his mother after having lived with older brothers in Hawaii and Florida.

“I tried school but it did not last long,” Flaherty said in the investigative report, according to court documents. “I was way behind kids my age since I had missed so much school so I dropped out. I got work at a store and met (Individual A). He was nice to me and gave me things. He started having sex with me when I was about 16. (Individual A) gave me drugs and later money for sexual favors for a long time.”

In his sentencing memo, Beneman said Flaherty had evidence proving his claims, but didn’t specify the nature of the evidence. In her sentencing memo, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanne D. Semivan wrote, “The Government has no reason to disbelieve the defendant’s account of the abuse he suffered at the hands of Individual A. Indeed, such alleged abuse goes a long way toward explaining why this individual provided the defendant with such substantial sums of money over the years.”

In a follow-up phone call, Semivan said she could not discuss details of the case, including Flaherty’s evidence. When asked what made Flaherty’s testimony compelling, she said, “I have no reason to disbelieve him. I have no reason to be skeptical of this person.”

In her sentencing memo, Semivan also wrote that the alleged abuse does not justify Flaherty’s fraud of the Social Security system, which is designed to help people in need.

“The defendant’s choice to continue receiving SSI benefits despite his other sources of income merit significant consequences,” she wrote. “The defendant’s behavior demonstrates a disregard for those who truly qualify for public assistance benefits and rely on them to meet the basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and health care. Defendant stole not only from the government, but from every individual whose taxes fund these programs and from every individual whose limited financial means qualifies them for these benefits.”

The government’s sentencing memo said Flaherty reportedly spent much of the money he received from Indiana on drugs and that “it appears that the defendant resorted to drugs as a result of the mental health issues that stemmed from abuse.” Semivan described Flaherty as suffering from myriad mental health issues, including PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Beneman wrote that Flaherty has been sober for three years and is receiving counseling. “He was victimized by a person of fame and influence, who then made him significant payments (for) a long period of time. This can only be seen as ‘hush money,’ ” he wrote.

Beneman did not return several phone messages to elaborate on the allegations.

Through an associate, James Brannan, the Rockland attorney who serves as the Indiana estate representative, declined to comment on the allegations.

The late-artist’s estate has been mired in lawsuits and countersuits alleging copyright infringement, art fraud and elder abuse. That bulk of that litigation, which is based in New York, was settled and headed for court approval in late May, but attorneys involved in the case have not returned messages to discuss the status of the settlement.

Unrelated to the Social Security fraud case, the Maine attorney general is accusing Brannan of breaching his fiduciary duty to Indiana’s estate by overpaying himself and the law firms he has hired to settle the New York case. Attorney General Aaron Frey is asking the Knox County Probate Court for permission to demand that Brannan and those firms return more than $4 million of the $10 million in fees they have charged related to the Indiana litigation, according to a recent motion.

The attorney general hired experts to review billing records, and they determined that approximately 25 percent of Brannan’s fees were excessive, or $400,000 of the $1.63 million he had billed through Dec. 31, 2020, according to court filings, and $3.7 million in fees charged by law firms were considered excessive.

The probate court has not ruled on the motion.

In his filing, the attorney general said a settlement was largely in place last September, but Brannan refused to sign it, “instead opting to unnecessarily continue the New York litigation.” After mediation in February and March of 2021 resulted in settlement terms “substantially similar” to the September settlement, the attorney general proceeded with his effort to recover the fees.

Comments are not available on this story.