South Louisiana Accident Staging Prosecutions Pick Up Steam, Key Sentencings Still Delayed

In October 2023, we reported recent Federal sentencings and indictments in the Louisiana commercial trucking accident staging rings. Since then, a little more activity has occurred. A key attorney’s sentencing was again delayed, with possibly another delay coming in the near future. However, convictions and other sentencing have occurred. Additional details are provided below.

MORE SENTENCING DELAY

A recent sentencing hearing set for Attorney Danny Patrick Keating, Jr., has been delayed again, this time to April 25, 2024. Keating, Jr., was set for sentencing on February 1, 2024, after a continuance from December 7, 2023. Keating has been awaiting sentencing since his guilty plea in June 2021. That December delay coincided with another delay for the sentencing of Damian Labeaud, whom federal investigators and prosecutors named as a staged accident ringleader. Labeaud’s sentencing was continued to later in February. It is anyone’s guess as to whether that will move forward as planned. With this latest delay and a few more guilty pleas/sentences in the past few months (see below), this author’s money is that Labeaud will have his upcoming sentencing continued as well.

ADDITIONAL SENTENCING AND GUILTY PLEAS IN STAGED ACCIDENT CASES

Another sentencing occurred on December 13, 2023. Florence Randle, a 72-year-old woman from Gibson, Louisiana, entered a plea to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. Randle was convicted for recruiting and directing passengers to participate in staged accidents with 18-wheelers in two separate 2017 incidents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Randle engaged in this tractor-trailer accident fraud with multiple others, including attorney Keating. Randle received a sentence of 24 months’ probation and a $100 special assessment. She was ordered to pay $63,508 in restitution.

On January 10, 2024, three other individuals entered guilty pleas in the wide-ranging investigations and prosecutions. Dimitri Frazier of Westwego, Louisiana (near New Orleans), and Adonte Turner and Tiffany Turner, both of New Orleans, pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud. Frazier and the Turners were convicted for intentionally striking an 18-wheeler on November 13, 2017, in New Orleans. The allegations against them included filing false police reports and fraudulent lawsuits, as well as lying under oath in depositions and seeking unnecessary medical treatment to aid in their insurance fraud. Sentencing is set for April.

WHAT’S NEXT?

While there was a good time of public dormancy, activity has clearly been occurring behind the scenes at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans. With several staged accident convictions and sentencings coming down the pipeline in the last few months, indications are that more may be coming, and perhaps another breakthrough in accident staging cases. If so, we expect Labeaud’s sentencing to be delayed again. That would signal that Feds are not yet finished with Labeaud.

We know there are more players involved. So far, as noted by the U.S. Attorney, 47 people have been convicted in this wide-ranging investigation and prosecution. However, only one attorney has pled guilty. Prosecutors have not obtained convictions or indictments of other attorneys involved. Prosecutors have been investigating several lawyers, dubbed A, B, C, D, and E in other court documents. A big sign that the investigation has moved forward substantially would be the naming of other attorneys, in conjunction with indictments or not. At that point, perhaps even more professional players might get tangled up in “Operation Sideswipe.”

We will continue to wait and watch. However, with some progress made, the commercial trucking industry should be thankful that federal agents and prosecutors in Louisiana are taking this years’ long accident staging investigation so seriously.