‘Spotter’ in New Orleans Staged Crash Schemes Sentenced to Prison

January 25, 2021

A New Orleans, Louisiana, man has been sentenced to prison for conspiring to stage automobile accidents as part of a scheme to defraud insurance and trucking companies, federal officials say.

U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana said U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana Mario Solomon, age 48, of New Orleans, was sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, arising out of staged automobile accidents with tractor-trailers in the New Orleans area. The “Operation Sideswipe” staged accidents are believed to have begun in June 2017 and is ongoing.

At least 33 defendants have been charged in the federal probe the staged accidents. As of early November 2020, 11 of the 33 indicted defendants had tendered guilty pleas in relation to the scheme. Among those who have pleaded guilty and admitted their participation are Solomon’s codefendants — Larry Williams, Lucinda Thomas, Mary Wade, Judy Williams, Dashontae Young, and Damian Labeaud.

According to documents filed in Federal Court, Solomon, along with his co-conspirators and others, beginning in approximately June 2017 conspired to commit wire fraud in connection with staged accidents, including two that occurred on June 6, 2017, and June 12, 2017.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Solomon admitted to acting as a “spotter” for Labeaud in both the June 6 and the June 12 staged automobile accidents alleged in the Superseding Indictment.

As a “spotter,” Solomon would follow 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.”

Solomon served as a spotter in at least two car accidents that Labeaud staged with 18-wheeler tractor-trailers. Solomon’s codefendants received a total of $43,000 as a result of the fraudulent lawsuits that were filed on their behalf, according to federal prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon sentenced Solomon to 21 months imprisonment followed by three years supervised release. Additionally, Solomon was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $71,816.00 to the victims in this case.

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 Shirin Hakimzadeh; Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Rivera; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana


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