Update on Accident Staging, Insurance Fraud Ring in New Orleans

UPDATE: United States Attorney Announces Additional Guilty Plea in Case Against Alleged Staged Accident Ringleader, Damian Labeaud

A total of eight individuals have previously been indicted in a New Orleans-based insurance fraud scheme involving staged motor vehicle accidents. Five of those charged previously pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, arising out of staged automobile accidents with tractor-trailers occurring in New Orleans. On May 29, 2020, an additional defendant, Mario Solomon, pleaded guilty to serving as a spotter for Damian Labeaud.

The Latest Guilty Plea

On May 29, 2020, Mario Solomon of New Orleans entered a plea of guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in connection with staged accidents with tractor-trailers in New Orleans. According to the Factual Basis submitted by the U.S. Attorney for Louisiana’s Eastern District, Solomon admitted that, beginning in June 2017, he acted as a spotter for co-defendant, Damian Labeaud, and would travel in a separate vehicle as Labeaud prepared to stage accidents with tractor-trailers in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area. After the accidents, Solomon would pick up Labeaud after Labeaud exited the vehicle in which he had staged an accident. Solomon was paid by Labeaud for serving as a spotter. Solomon also admitted to being present at a restaurant, though not sitting with Labeaud, while Labeaud allegedly discussed staging accidents with “Attorney A.”

Solomon admitted to serving in his role as spotter for two of the accidents which have thus far resulted in five guilty pleas, those involving Lucinda Thomas, Mary Wade, Judy Williams, and Dashontae Young, and another involving Larry Williams. In the accident involving Thomas, Wade, J. Williams, and Young, Solomon admitted that he and Labeaud met with the parties prior to the staged accident. Labeaud then drove the parties’ vehicle into a tractor-trailer that was merging onto Chef Menteur Highway, with Solomon trailing in a Chevrolet Silverado. Labeaud then exited the staging vehicle and left the scene of the accident. Solomon brought Labeaud back to the scene later that day, and Labeaud made false statements to NOPD officers investigating the accident, specifically that the tractor-trailer operator had been at fault. Solomon and Labeaud then met with “Attorney A” who paid Labeaud $7,500 for staging the accident.

In the second staged accident in which Solomon admitted participation, Labeaud drove a vehicle occupied by passengers Larry Williams and two others. He parked the vehicle on Chef Menteur Highway to locate a tractor-trailer to collide with, again with Solomon behind him in his Chevrolet Silverado. Labeaud then located a tractor-trailer and intentionally caused a collision with the tractor-trailer. Solomon then picked Labeaud up, and the pair left the scene. According to the proffer, “Attorney A” paid Labeaud $5,000 for this accident.

Per the proffer, Solomon was paid approximately $1,000 for serving in his role as spotter in connection with the accidents.

The charges against Labeaud remain pending with a jury trial set for June 8, 2020.

Louisiana Fraud Investigations

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 insurance.fraud.unit@dps.la.gov or online at the Suspicious Activity link found at 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.