Five More Plead Guilty to Staged Accidents in New Orleans
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A total of five individuals have pleaded guilty to staging two accidents in the New Orleans area with tractor-trailers in 2017, and obtaining fraudulent financial settlements totaling more than $282,000.
The May 25 pleas came from Lois Russell, 61, of Gibson, La.; Tanya Givens, 43, of Gibson, La.; Henry Randle, 64, of Gibson, La.; John Diggs, 60, of Thibodaux, La.; and Dakota Diggs, 25, of Fort Smith, Ark.
RELATED: Louisiana House takes action on staged accidents
The five admitted to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and face up to a maximum prison sentence of five years, a term of supervised release up to three years, and/or a fine of $250,000 or the greater of twice the gross gain to each defendant or twice the gross loss to any person under federal statutes.
Those who pleaded guilty were involved in a pair of staged accidents on March 27 and May 17 in 2017.
It was the ringleaders of the accidents, who already have pleaded guilty, who brought together the participants of the staged accidents. The ringleaders were paid $1,000 for each of participant by an unidentified attorney, who would then file legal claims against the trucking companies that actually were the victims of the accidents.
The pleas bring to 38 the number of individuals indicted in the ongoing investigation by the FBI and Louisiana State Police, with assistance from the New Orleans-based Metropolitan Crime Commission.
To date, the 38 individuals have been charged for their part in what federal authorities and have included more than 100 staged accidents in the New Orleans area with trucks and cars. So far, only one attorney has been charged with filing fraudulent claims, but four other unidentified attorneys also have been accused of criminal activity in the staged-accident scams.
Legal Webinar Tues. 5/25: Part 1 (of 3) of The Crooked World of Staged Accidents- Why Every Fleet Needs to Care, Sponsored by @EROAD. Learn how to be prepared for staged accidents in case you fall victim. Join EROAD and former ATA Chairman Randy Guillot => https://t.co/vtXhA9oaY1 pic.twitter.com/AYcMtciVko — American Trucking (@TRUCKINGdotORG) May 20, 2021
In the latest round of pleas, prosecutors charged that after the staged accidents, members of the group filed lawsuits via three unidentified attorneys aiming to “defraud and obtain money and property from insurance and trucking companies,” investigators have said. Some of the conspirators who participated in past staged accidents sought as much as $1 million each in lawsuit damages.
On May 25, five people pleaded guilty to staging two accidents in New Orleans with tractor-trailers in 2017, while obtaining fraudulent financial settlements totaling more than $282,000. Is the situation surrounding fraudulent settlements getting worse or better in 2021? Host Michael Freeze talks with TT's Eric Miller and Eleanor Lamb. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
News of the staged accidents in the New Orleans area was first made public in March 2019 for incidents involving two tractor-trailers in 2017. After the first round of indictments, attorneys representing trucking attorneys called the scams the “tip of the iceberg.”
Trucking companies that travel through the New Orleans area have since been alerted to the staged accidents by attorneys with trucking companies and insurance clients who were victims in the scheme. In 2019, the attorneys representing victims and potential victims identified similarities among a string of at least 30 cases — all in the New Orleans area.
Those suspicious accidents included multiple people in a claimant vehicle, sideswipe allegations with commercial vehicle trailers, minimal damage to claimant vehicle, little to no damage to the insured trailer and a commercial vehicle driver who is either unaware of or denies impact.
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