In late May, five previously indicted individuals pleaded guilty in federal court in New Orleans to mail-fraud conspiracy charges in connection with staging accidents involving tractor-trailers in the greater New Orleans area.
Accident Staging Ring Plea Details
Lois Russell, Tanya Givens and John Diggs admitted to being involved in a staged accident on March 27, 2017, after driving to Louisiana from out of state. The parties admitted that they were passengers in a vehicle when Roderick Hickman, a previously identified “slammer,” drove the vehicle into the side of a tractor-trailer on Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans. Immediately after the crash, Hickman jumped out of the vehicle, and Russel claimed that she was the driver.
All three admitted to asserting personal injury claims, resulting in settlements totaling $270,000. Henry Randall and Dakota Diggs admitted to being involved in a separate intentionally-caused accident on Calliope Street in New Orleans when their vehicle was driven by Damien LeBeaud, a previously identified “slammer.” Randall and Diggs admitted to receiving payments from attorneys as “advances on settlements” and asserting personal injury claims.
These guilty pleas are not surprising, as most of the 33 indicted individuals have pled guilty to charges. The question remains as to whether there will be any further significant developments in the Government’s investigation.
Another accident ring involving alleged “slammer” Cornelius Garrison may have been thwarted by Garrison’s murder four days after he was indicted on fraud charges. Reportedly, the accident staging ring involving Garrison involved different attorneys and individuals than those previously identified. Whether Garrison’s murder prevents the prosecution of additional individuals remains to be seen.
Legislation to Address the Issues with Prosecuting Accident Staging Rings
In the meantime, the Louisiana legislature has been taking steps to enhance the penalties for accident staging activities, making accident staging a specific crime covered by Louisiana’s racketeering laws. Edward McAuliffe, an associate in the trucking and transportation practice, recently wrote an informative article about this, “Louisiana Legislation on New Crime of Staging Motor Vehicle Accidents Moves Forward.”
As Edward notes in his article, “these prosecutions are not easy to investigate or prove. This difficulty owes not just to the nature of fraud itself, but also to the patchwork of laws at both the local and Federal level which intertwine to provide the legal basis to bring charges. There simply has not been a law tailored directly to these cases. But this is likely to change soon.”
For further details about the legislation, read “Louisiana Legislation on New Crime of Staging Motor Vehicle Accidents Moves Forward.”