Seven More Sentenced in Staged New Orleans Crashes
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Seven more individuals have been sentenced over the past month for their roles in staged crashes with tractor-trailers in the New Orleans area.
It was the latest development in the crash-for-cash criminal schemes against unknowing truckers. Prosecutors said each of the schemes was orchestrated by a “slammer,” or driver, paid by a local attorney who filed fraudulent lawsuits against the trucking companies on behalf of the participants in staged accidents that occurred in 2017 and 2020.
The FBI investigation into an estimated 150 intentional accidents with tractor-trailers is ongoing.
The latest round of sentencing:
- Marvel Francois, 54, of Houma, La., was sentenced to five years’ probation for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 100 hours of community service, payment of restitution in the amount of $20,654.48, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee for a staged accident in 2020. Francois and three others falsely reported to the New Orleans Police that their Dodge Durango was struck by a truck, when just the opposite occurred.
- Troy Smith, 58, of Houma, La., was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit mail fraud; upon release from imprisonment, three years’ supervised release; and payment of a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. According to court documents, Smith, along with four participants, intentionally slammed into a tractor-trailer on May 17, 2020, and falsely reported to police that the truck was responsible for the collision.
- Bernell Gale, 46, of Raceland, La.; Tanya Givens, 45, of Gibson, La.; and Dakota Diggs, 27, of Fort Smith Ark., were each sentenced for conspiracy to commit mail fraud for staged accidents with tractor-trailers in 2017. Diggs got 60 months of probation, restitution in the amount of $11,000 and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. Givens was sentenced to 60 months of probation, restitution in the amount of $363,970 and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. Gale was sentenced to 36 months of probation and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.
- Herbert Allen, 38, and Dion Ridley, 23, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with a staged accident with a tractor-trailer on June 28, 2017. Ridley, a passenger in the car, falsely claimed that Allen was driving the car and they were struck by a tractor-trailer. In fact, the government’s evidence showed that the defendants conspired with others when another participant was driving the car and intentionally hit the tractor-trailer. Allen was sentenced to 37 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release. Ridley was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release. Both were also imposed a mandatory special assessment fee of $100.
Another Individual Sentenced for Conspiring to Stage Automobile Accidents in Order to Defraud Insurance and Trucking Companies: Marvel Francois was sentenced to 5 years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and payment of restitution in the amou... https://t.co/fHyRtJGSh0 — FBI New Orleans (@FBINewOrleans) March 23, 2023
So far, the number of men and women busted in the FBI’s “Operation Sideswipe” investigation has reached more than 50, and is likely to continue growing in coming months. The government believes that as many as 150 staged accidents have occurred in the New Orleans area, and dozens of the scammers have collected judgments totaling millions of dollars dating to 2015 in fraudulent lawsuits.
So far only one attorney has been indicted in the case, but federal prosecutors are investigating other attorneys believed to be involved.
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Trucking companies that travel through the New Orleans area have since 2019 been alerted to the staged accidents by attorneys with trucking companies and insurance clients who were actually victims in the schemes. In 2019, attorneys representing victims and potential victims identified similarities among at least 30 cases.
Nearly all of the staged accidents have included multiple people in a claimant vehicle, sideswipe allegations with commercial vehicle trailers, minimal damage to the claimant vehicle, little to no damage to the insured trailer, and commercial vehicle drivers who are either unaware of or have denied fault in a crash.