3 More Guilty Pleas in Louisiana Staged Auto/Tractor-Trailer Crashes

October 23, 2020

Three more people have pleaded guilty to conspiring to stage accidents between automobiles and tractor-trailers in Louisiana, federal authorities say.

Roderick Hickman, 49, of Baton Rouge; Bernell Gale, 43, of Raceland; and Troy Smith, 56, of Houma, have pleaded guilty to charges of Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud arising out of staged automobile accidents with tractor-trailers occurring in New Orleans, according to United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser.

According to the guilty plea, on March 27, 2017, Hickman, along with four defendants who have also been charged by indictment, intentionally collided with a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road. Hickman intentionally struck the 18-wheeler and then fled the scene with Damian Labeaud, who pled guilty to a previous indictment charging him and seven others with staging automobile accidents.

On May 17, 2020, Labeaud participated in another staged accident in the vicinity of Louisa Street and Chickasaw Street. Gale and Smith were participants in the Louisa Street staged accident along with two others, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

According to documents filed in federal court, the passengers were referred to attorneys who paid Hickman and Labeaud to stage the accidents. In some cases, the attorneys knew that the participants were uninjured but referred them to medical providers for treatment to increase the value of subsequent lawsuits. In total, the victim trucking and insurance companies paid out $277,500.00 for these fraudulent claims.

Hickman, Gale, and Smith face a maximum sentence of five (5) years.

Along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police, and the Metropolitan Crime Commission assisted in the case. The prosecution 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 Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office

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