In this Aug. 29, 2009, file photo, artist Robert Indiana poses at his studio in Vinalhaven. Credit: Joel Page / AP

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

New allegations that late artist Robert Indiana sexually abused teenagers in the 1980s came to light during a Waldoboro man’s sentencing for Social Security fraud.

Wayne Flaherty, 53, claims the unreported income he received from 2000 through 2018 outside of his Social Security checks came as “hush money” from Indiana, the Portland Press Herald reported.

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

Flaherty’s lawyer, David Beneman, said in his sentencing memo that the more than $846,000 Flaherty received during that period was intended to keep him quiet about alleged sexual abuse that started when Flaherty was a teenager in the 1980s, the paper reported.

“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,” Beneman wrote in the memo.

Indiana, best known for his 1960s “LOVE” series, died at his secluded Vinalhaven home off the Maine coast in 2018. He was charged in 1990 for paying men and boys for sex but was found not guilty in 1992.

Flaherty told the Press Herald he never received money from Indiana, but that he had to plead guilty.

“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.”

The court documents revealed Indiana bought Flaherty a house in Waldoboro in 2012.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanne D. Semivan said the government has no reason to doubt Flaherty’s claims of sexual abuse, but that doesn’t excuse hiding money, according to the Press Herald.

“The defendant’s choice to continue receiving SSI benefits despite his other sources of income merit significant consequences,” she wrote in her sentencing memo. “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.”

Since Indiana died in 2018, there have been several lawsuits starting soon after his estate sought to halt reproductions of the artist’s work.

In 2020, Michael McKenzie of New York-based American Image Art filed a federal lawsuit in Portland alleging that Indiana’s estate and its executor, Rockland attorney James Brannan, failed to adhere to the terms of a settlement reached last fall to resolve a legal dispute over reproduction rights for the late artist’s work.

The Maine attorney general’s office wants law firms in Maine and New York to return millions of dollars it said were overpaid by Indiana’s estate.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...