Five defendants have been indicted in Louisiana for an alleged insurance fraud involving a staged vehicular accident scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says.
Damian K. Labeaud and Lucinda Thomas of New Orleans, and Mary Wade, Judy Williams and Dashontae Young of Houma, Louisiana, were charged in a six-count federal indictment with one (1) count of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 and five (5) counts of Wire Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years for Count 1 and 20 years for Counts 2-6.
The indictment announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser
According to the indictment, on June 6, 2017, Thomas, Wade, Williams and Young drove from Houma, to meet with Labeaud for the purpose of staging an automobile accident. After their meeting, Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young agreed to allow Labeaud to drive Thomas’ 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche vehicle. The defendants then drove around the vicinity of Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road of New Orleans until they located a 2017 Freightliner tractor-trailer operated by an Arkansas trucking company.
At approximately 12:30 P.M., Labeaud intentionally collided with the tractor-trailer, the indictment alleges. Labeaud then exited Thomas’ vehicle and instructed Thomas to get in the driver’s seat of the Avalanche to make it appear that Thomas was driving the vehicle at the time of the staged accident.
Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young then falsely reported to New Orleans Police Department that Thomas had been the driver of the Avalanche and that the traitor-trailer had struck her vehicle. Labeaud returned to the scene and told the NOPD that he had witnessed the accident and that the driver of the tractor-trailer had been at fault, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the indictment, before and after the staged accident, Labeaud contacted an attorney and arranged a meeting with Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young at a fast food restaurant on Chef Menteur Highway. It is further alleged in the indictment that the attorney paid Labeaud $7,500 on the day of the staged accident. The attorney then demanded approximately $1,000,000.00 per plaintiff in settlement for Thomas, Wade, and Williams.
The attorney filed two lawsuits in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, both of which were removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The indictment alleges that Thomas, Wade, and Williams each provided false testimony in various depositions taken in conjunction with the lawsuits.
A year of pursuing their fraudulent lawsuits, Thomas, Wade, and Williams settled their cases for $7,500 each. Each of these five defendants are charged with substantive counts of wire fraud based on settlement payments issued by the victim trucking company.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledged the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police, and the Metropolitan Crime Commission with this matter. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, supervisor of the Financial Crimes Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Rivera, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh, and Trial Attorney Jared Hasten of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Fraud Section, Health Care Fraud Unit.
Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office
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