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Utah-based motor carrier C.R. England on Feb. 9 filed a sweeping federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO, civil lawsuit alleging that a New Orleans law firm and six co-conspirators were paid a total of $4.7 million in a fraudulent settlement for a staged accident with an England tractor-trailer in 2015.
The 98-page lawsuit contains details that had previously not been widely known about these scams, including allegations that several “criminal enterprise” groups participated in a total of 150 staged accidents with tractor-trailers from 2015-2018 in the New Orleans area.
To date, 33 individuals have been indicted in the scheme, and 15 have pleaded guilty for participating in a string of staged accidents with trucks. The pleas and federal indictments are part of an ongoing FBI investigation and federal grand jury inquiry into the incidents.
“It is believed that while this RICO complaint is pending, many more indictments will be filed, guilty pleas will be entered and additional staged accidents will be identified, thereby publicly identifying additional actors and participants in this criminal enterprise,” the lawsuit said.
If successful, a RICO lawsuit could result in a plaintiff being awarded triple monetary damages. RICO is a U.S. law, enacted in 1970, that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit were Jason Giles, The King Firm, Giles Law, Damian Lebeaud, Roderick Hickman, Anthony Robinson, Audrey Harris, Jerry Schaffer and Keishira Robinson. The lawsuit alleged that the group conspired to stage accidents involving tractor-trailers to defraud England and its insurer, ACE American, in false bodily injury claims.
At least two other attorneys who were said to have filed claims for some of the defendants were named in the lawsuit, but were not included as defendants. Three of the four publicly named ringleaders in the 150 staged accidents have pleaded guilty to their roles in the criminal schemes, and the fourth was murdered two weeks prior to his plea hearing, the lawsuit said.
“This is an ongoing effort by the community of motor carriers to fight back and expose what has been done to us by criminal behavior,” England’s attorney, Douglas Williams of the Baton Rogue, La., law firm of Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, told Transport Topics. “We did a lot of digging. We went through underlying lawsuits so we could confirm who the people were.”
Many of the allegations have been contained in indictments and pleas by participants, most of whom were residents of the New Orleans area.
As part of the scheme, the lawsuit said that Audrey Harris, one of the passengers riding in the vehicle that struck the England truck, said the accident caused injury to her neck, back, left arm and right leg. The lawsuit said Harris underwent treatment by doctors and health care providers to whom she was referred by attorney Giles and an attorney of The King Firm. Included in the false claim were spinal injections and both a cervical and a lumbar fusion. The claim alleged that future medical treatments would total $7.7 million.
The truck driver targeted in the England case — who testified that he saw the occupants of the scammers’ vehicle leave the scene by ambulance — also fell victim to the scheme. He received a citation from the investigating officer and missed his delivery in New Orleans. He slept overnight in his truck to complete the delivery the next day.
The driver was terminated by England that same day, and attorney Williams said he has not been rehired by the company.
Vehicle occupant Harris testified that she was “napping” in the vehicle and had little memory of what occurred. “Ms. Robinson testified that she was texting on her phone while her father was driving, that she heard him say ‘whoa’ and she looked up, and her father blew his horn and swerved to the left to avoid the collision with the tractor-trailer; however, the tractor-trailer came into their lane and struck their vehicle,” the lawsuit said.
Occupant Robinson also testified that immediately after the collision, her father’s fiancée, Harris, became “hysterical” yelling and screaming that their vehicle was hit and that she needed an ambulance. Robinson also testified that her attorney, Jason Giles of The King Firm, referred her to the chiropractor after the accident, according to the lawsuit.
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