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April 27, 2022 8:32 PM, EDT

Three More Sentenced for Roles in Staged Crashes

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Three New Orleans women who faced up to five years in prison have been sentenced for their roles in staging accidents with heavy-duty vehicles and ordered to pay more than $5 million in restitution to motor carrier victims of the crashes.

Federal prosecutors said that the sentencing April 20 brings the number of convictions in staged crashes in the New Orleans area to 36. The pleas and sentencing for conspiracy to commit mail fraud were part of an ongoing federal investigation known as “Operation Sideswipe.”

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle sentenced Keishira Robinson, 27, to five years’ probation, restitution of $4.7 million, $100 mandatory special assessment and granted a preliminary order of forfeiture in the amount of $5,000.

Robinson and her co-conspirators were sentenced in connection with a staged accident Oct. 13, 2015, with a tractor-trailer owned by C.R. England.

Prosecutors said that Chandrika Brown, 31, and her co-defendants conspired to commit mail fraud in connection with an Oct.15, 2015, staged accident with a Hotard Coaches Inc. bus while traveling on Interstate10 near the flyover of I-510.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance sentenced Brown to three years’ probation, 100 hours community service, restitution in the amount of $121,076.75 and a $100 special assessment fee.

Similarly, Aisha Thompson, 44, pleaded guilty to participating in a staged accident that occurred Sept. 6, 2017, on I-10 near the New Orleans Almonaster exit. She and her co-conspirators intentionally crashed into a tractor-trailer owned by Averitt Express.

Vance sentenced Thompson to 18 months incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release, 100 hours of community service, restitution in the amount of $677,500 and a $100 special assessment fee.

Interstate 10 in New Orleans approaching the Almonaster exit

Interstate 10 in New Orleans approaching the Almonaster exit. (Google maps)

Attorneys for the women, only identified as attorneys “A, B and C,” played a role in filing successful lawsuits against the motor carrier victims and achieving settlements.

The women and their accomplices also have forfeited five cars to the U.S. government, according to federal court documents.

The staged accidents characteristically involved the scammers seeking legal advice, and they were instructed to seek “frequent doctor visits and invasive medical treatments” to help bolster a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages.

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News of the crashes in the New Orleans area first was made public in March 2019 for incidents involving two tractor-trailers in 2017. After the first round of indictments, attorneys representing trucking companies called the scams the “tip of the iceberg.”

Carriers that travel through the area have since been alerted to the scams by attorneys with trucking companies and insurance clients who were victims.

Early on, attorneys representing victims and potential victims identified similarities among at least 30 cases. Those suspicious crashes had similar characteristics, including multiple people in a claimant vehicle, sideswipe allegations with commercial vehicle trailers, minimal damage to a claimant vehicle, little to no damage to the insured trailer, and a commercial vehicle driver who is either unaware of or denies impact.

Prosecutors have said that groups of scammers have staged at least 100 crashes in recent years.