Federal authorities have indicted five people in connection with an insurance fraud scheme involving a faked commercial vehicle crash in New Orleans.
On October 24, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Louisiana announced that Damian Labeaud, Lucinda Thomas, Mary Wade, Judy Williams, and Dashontae Young had been indicted on charges of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Wire Fraud.
The charges stem from a staged accident that occurred on June 6, 2017.
Authorities say that Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young drove from Houma, Louisiana, to New Orleans in order to meet with Labeaud “for the purpose of staging an automobile accident in order to obtain money through fraud.”
Thomas allowed Labeaud to drive her 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche and all of the defendants got inside the vehicle.
Prosecutors describe the scheme:
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. Labeaud then exited Thomas’ vehicle and instructed Thomas to get behind the wheel of Thomas’ Avalanche to make it appear that Thomas was driving the vehicle at the time of the staged accident.
Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young contacted the New Orleans Police Department (“NOPD”) and falsely reported that Thomas had been the driver of the Avalanche and that the traitor-trailer had struck her vehicle. Labeaud then returned to the scene and also made false statements to the NOPD that he had witnessed the accident and that the driver of the tractor-trailer had been at fault.
The indictment also accuses Labeaud of contacting “Attorney A” both before and after the crash. Attorney A reportedly paid Labeaud $7,500 on the day of the staged crash and then demanded $1,000,000 settlements of Thomas, Wade, and Williams. Attorney A also filed two lawsuits. Thomas, Wade, and Williams are accused of providing false testimony in connection with those lawsuits.
After a year of pursuing the fraudulent lawsuits, Thomas, Wade, and Williams settled with the trucking company for a sum of $7,500 each.
Lebeaud was arrested by F.B.I. agents in connection with the scheme on October 24. The other four defendants were ordered to appear in court.
If convicted, all five defendants face up to five years in prison, five years of released supervisions and a fine of $250,000 per count.
Earlier this month, the United States Attorney General’s Office stayed three lawsuits involving plaintiffs who said that they were involved in crashes with semi trucks in New Orleans due to an “ongoing criminal investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office that may involve this case or witnesses or counsel to this proceeding.”