A total of eight individuals have been indicted in a New Orleans-based insurance fraud scheme involving staged motor vehicle accidents. According to a Superseding Indictment revealed by United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser on Thursday, December 5, 2019, Damian Labeaud conspired to arrange intentional traffic accidents with tractor-trailers traveling through New Orleans. Mr. Labeaud is accused of recruiting individuals to participate in the scheme allegedly in conjunction with two attorneys, identified in court documents as “Attorney A” and “Attorney B.”
THE ALLEGED insurance fraud SCHEME
The Superseding Indictment alleges that, prior to the allegedly staged accidents, Mr. Labeaud met with “Attorney A” at a New Orleans restaurant, and the pair agreed that Mr. Labeaud would be paid $1,000.00 per passenger for staged and legitimate accidents involving tractor-trailers. It was also agreed that Attorney A would pay Mr. Labeaud $500.00 per passenger for accidents that did not involve tractor-trailers.
The Grand Jury alleges that Attorney A knew Mr. Labeaud was staging accidents and that Attorney A paid Mr. Labeaud for at least forty (40) illegally staged automobile accidents. In addition, the Grand Jury alleges that Attorney A and Mr. Labeaud discussed the staging of accidents before they happened, and Attorney A also directed Labeaud to change the locations of the staged accidents, to vary the number of passengers, to avoid talking to the police, and to avoid cameras. Attorney A allegedly advanced Mr. Labeaud thousands of dollars for accidents and would instruct Mr. Labeaud that he owed Attorney A a certain number of accidents based on the amount of money advanced.
Mr. Labeaud is accused of recruiting people to ride in vehicles driven by him, traverse New Orleans-area roads until locating a tractor-trailer, and then intentionally causing automobile accidents with the tractor-trailer. Mr. Labeaud would then allegedly flee the scene in a different vehicle, and one of the passengers would get behind the wheel, the passengers would call the police, and the passengers would accuse the tractor-trailer of fault. Mr. Labeaud is at least once accused of returning to the scene and identifying himself as an eyewitness.
After the staged accidents, Mr. Labeaud would then introduce the passengers to Attorney A, who would arrange medical treatment. The Superseding Indictment accuses the participant-passengers of providing false testimony in conjunction with lawsuits filed by Attorney A. The Superseding Indictment also introduces “Attorney B,” the law partner of “Attorney A.”
The Superseding Indictment now additionally alleges that Attorney A contacted Mr. Labeaud because of telephone calls made by one of the participants to Mr. Labeaud prior to a staged accident. Attorney A instructed Mr. Labeaud to contact the passengers and to “get their stories straight.” Attorney A is additionally accused of meeting with the participants to suggest a fraudulent scenario for the telephone calls, after obtaining phone records, pleadings, and depositions establishing that two participants lied under oath in their depositions.
These eight defendants are charged in an eight-count Superseding Indictment. Mr. Labeaud and Mario Solomon are charged with one (1) count of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and seven (7) counts of Wire Fraud. Lucinda Thomas, Mary Wade, Judy Williams, and Dashontae Young are charged in the Conspiracy Count and six Wire Fraud Counts. Genetta Isreal and Larry Williams are charged in the Conspiracy Count and two Wire Fraud Counts. All eight defendants were ordered to appear for an initial appearance and arraignment on this Superseding Indictment.
The Louisiana State Police Insurance Fraud/Auto Theft Unit is responsible for investigating referrals of suspected fraudulent insurance acts and for the investigation of individuals and illicit organizations involved. Anyone having knowledge of a fraudulent scheme may report the activity to the Louisiana State Police by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at the Suspicious Activity link found at the Louisiana State Police website.
In this case, the U.S. Attorney acknowledged the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police, and the Metropolitan Crime Commission with this matter.