January 22, 2021 5:45 PM, EST

‘Spotter’ in New Orleans Accident Scam Sentenced to 21 Months

Getty Images

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

A so-called spotter who participated in at least two staged accidents against trucks in the New Orleans area has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for his part in the wire fraud conspiracy.

Mario Solomon, 48, of New Orleans, also will be on three years’ supervised release after serving his sentence and will be required to pay restitution of nearly $72,000 to the victims in the case.

Federal court documents said that Solomon, along with his co-conspirators and others, beginning in approximately June 2017 and continuing through the present, conspired to commit wire fraud in connection with staged accidents, including ones that occurred June 6, 2017, and June 12, 2017.

Solomon’s co-defendants — Larry Williams, Lucinda Thomas, Mary Wade, Judy Williams, Dashontae Young and Damian Labeaud — have earlier tendered guilty pleas and admitted to their knowing participation in the scheme to stage accidents in the New Orleans area to defraud insurance and trucking companies.

As a “spotter,” Solomon would follow accused ringleader Labeaud in a separate vehicle as Labeaud prepared to stage accidents with 18-wheeler tractor-trailers.

“After the accidents, Solomon would pick up Labeaud after he exited the vehicle in which he had staged an accident. Solomon was paid in exchange for serving as a spotter,” said a Jan. 22 statement issued by Peter Strasser, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Solomon served as a spotter in at least two car accidents that Labeaud staged with 18-wheeler tractor-trailers. His co-defendants received a total of $43,000 as a result of the fraudulent lawsuits that were filed on their behalf.”

On May 28, Solomon admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with the two staged crashes. He could have faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his role in the conspiracy aimed at shaking down trucking companies for large settlements.

In court documents, federal prosecutors said that Solomon’s role in the conspiracy was to follow close behind the scammers in two of the crashes, leave the accident scene and return as a witness, blaming the truck driver for sideswiping the scammer’s car.

Solomon was paid $1,000 in the two fake crashes, according to a “factual basis” document filed by prosecutors outlining his role in the scam. The payment to Solomon came from an attorney mentioned in a federal indictment as a participant in the scams that are part of an ongoing FBI investigation.

To date, 33 individuals have been charged for their part in what authorities said included as many as 100 staged accidents in the New Orleans area with trucks and cars.

After the staged accidents, members of the group filed lawsuits via two attorneys aiming to “defraud and obtain money and property from insurance and trucking companies,” investigators said. Some of the conspirators sought as much as $1 million each in lawsuit damages.

On Nov. 5, New Orleans attorney Danny Patrick Keating Jr., 51, was accused of being a participant in as many as 31 staged accidents in the New Orleans area in recent years.

Federal authorities specifically charged Keating with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, for conspiring with alleged ringleader Labeaud and others to defraud insurance companies, commercial carriers and trucking companies.

Court documents said that Keating settled 17 of the 31 staged accidents. The indictment charged that Keating and his 77 clients received approximately $1.5 million in settlements resulting from his representation of his clients involved in the staged accidents. Keating kept approximately $358,000 in attorney’s fees, according to the charges.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing: