August 15, 2023

Louisiana staged accident scam investigation springs back to life with 5 new indictments


The criminal process against the people who allegedly staged accidents with trucks in the New Orleans area has taken a new turn, just weeks before a key sentencing in the case.

The first new indictments in the case in more than a year that were not accompanied by parallel guilty pleas were announced Monday by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Most indictment announcements have been accompanied by guilty pleas to mail fraud or wire fraud charges, though after the rush of announcements of 2021 and 2022, the past few months have been relatively quiet. 

The five new indictments come just a few weeks before the sentencing of Damian Labeaud. Lebeaud is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 31 after earlier delays. 

He pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges back in August 2020 and his name has popped up repeatedly in other sentencing and indictment news releases by the U.S. attorney’s office as being a leader of the effort to stage accidents with trucks in order to collect insurance payouts. 

In the latest indictments, five individuals were indicted on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud: Antoine Clark, Dimitri Frazier, Shirley Harris, Adonte Turner and Tiffany Turner. 

The alleged wire fraud comes in the participation by the five indicted individuals to “intentionally [stage] automobile accidents with tractor-trailers in New Orleans to defraud trucking and insurance companies,” according to the indictment.

The indictment itself treads over familiar ground. Across the indictments and guilty pleas of the more than 40 individuals connected to what the U.S. Attorney’s office dubbed “Operation Sideswipe,” the modus operandi differs little. 

A group of participants, some with the informal titles of “slammers” or “spotters,” looked for a truck to collide with. A car they were driving or riding in then got into place to stage a crash with the truck. After the collision, the participants sometimes switched positions in the car because they wanted a certain person to be listed as being behind the wheel at the time of the accident.

Claims of various injuries followed, in some cases leading to unnecessary medical treatment and in the most extreme cases, surgeries by what appeared to be compliant doctors. Payouts were made by insurers or truckers. Some of them were in the thousands, but others were in the millions. (A payout by C.R. England was for about $4.7 million.)

The trucking companies targeted in the two collisions cited in the latest indictment were God’s Way Trucking from Statesboro, Georgia, and Whitestone Transportation of Moselle, Mississippi. Canal Insurance coincidentally was the insurance company for both carriers.

A God’s Way truck was hit on April 24, 2017. The Whitestone collision was Nov. 13, 2017.

There is limited information in the indictment about payouts from Canal, unlike some of the other indictments that went into greater detail about cash received by the participants in the staged accident scheme. But the indictment does say an unidentified co-conspirator C did receive a $10,000 payment from Canal for the collision with the God’s Way truck.

The reference to co-conspirator C is not the only unidentified person in the indictment. There are references to co-conspirators A, B and D as well as Attorney A. 

Co-conspirator A is likely to be Cornelius Garrison. Just a few days after he was indicted in connection with Operation Sideswipe in September 2020, he was gunned down in his home. No arrests have been made in that case. The indictment noted a date of death for co-conspirator A that lines up with when Garrison was killed.

The unidentified co-conspirators and the unidentified attorney in the latest indictment add to a long list of individuals who have yet to be indicted, which makes the upcoming Lebeaud sentencing so significant. 

The many mentions of Lebeaud in other indictments and sentencing announcements, combined with the long delay in his own sentencing, suggests the possibility of cooperation with the continuing U.S. attorney’s probe into Operation Sideswipe. If the Aug. 31 date holds, it could mean the U.S. attorney has concluded it has gotten all it needs out of LeBeaud’s cooperation.

Additionally, Lebeaud worked closely with Danny Keating, the New Orleans attorney who pleaded guilty in June 2021 to organizing many of the staged accidents. In announcing Keating’s guilty plea, the U.S. attorney said Keating had worked with Lebeaud to stage 31 separate collisions and that Keating had represented 77 individual clients involved in the crashes. 

(The U.S. attorney’s office, in its most recent announcements, had stopped providing a “body count” on the number of guilty pleas it had secured, but it is more than 40 and a lot less than 77. No cases have gone to trial.)

Keating is the only indicted attorney so far. And although his plea deal was announced more than two years ago, he has not been sentenced — yet. Earlier this month, a sentencing date of Dec. 7 for Keating was set by the court.

There have been no other indictments of the attorneys who were involved in other collisions, though the indictments refer to Attorneys A through E. It is unknown if Attorney A in the latest indictment is separate from the Attorney A in that group of unidentified lawyers in the earlier indictments.

Also unscathed have been medical personnel who some of the indictments strongly suggest were involved in Operation Sideswipe by knowingly performing unnecessary medical procedures on riders in the cars who feigned injuries. 

More articles by John Kingston

Seven more sentenced in Louisiana truck collision insurance scam this month

No jail in latest sentencing for Louisiana staged accident scam

Louisiana staged truck accident case back in court, 2 more plead guilty

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