Authorities announced that a New Orleans couple was sentenced to prison for their role in a wide-spread scheme to stage crashes with commercial vehicles in order to defraud trucking and insurance companies.

On June 30, Anthony Robinson, 67, and Audrey Harris, 54, were both sentenced to 48 months in prison after the couple pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Both Robinson and Harris were also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following their prison sentences. The judge also ordered that any unlawfully-obtained proceeds were to be surrendered to the government.

Robinson and Harris are among dozens of others who have pleaded guilty to charges related an orchestrated crime ring that staged a large number of semi truck crashes in the New Orleans area in order to defraud trucking and insurance companies.

According to court documents, the charges stem from an incident during which Robinson paid scheme “ringleader” Damien Labeaud $2000 to participate in a staged truck crash that took place on October 13, 2015.

Harris, Robinson’s daughter Keishira Robinson, and Robinson’s friend and neighbor, Jerry Schaffer all packed into a car driven by Roderick Hickman, who later pleaded guilty to acting as a “slammer” or a person who is behind the wheel causing a staged crash.

Hickman intentionally struck a tractor-trailer in the area of Alvar Street and France Road.

Robinson, who had been in Lebaud’s car, then got behind the wheel and claimed that he had been driving when the staged crash happened.

Following the crash, Robinson and the rest of the passengers in the car were referred to an attorney who paid Labeaud and Hickman to stage accidents. Lawyers referred Robinson and Hickman to medical centers for treatment.

Court documents say that Robinson and Harris “both underwent extensive medical treatment, including chiropractor treatment, injections, and eventually both neck and back surgeries” on the understanding that it would increase the value of their lawsuit.

Fraudulent lawsuits filed on behalf of Robinson, Harris, Schaffer, and Keishira Robinson resulted in a $4.7 million payout.

From a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

“Specifically, the victim trucking company and its excess insurer paid out approximately $1,500,000.00 for A. ROBINSON’s claim. A.ROBINSON received approximately $534,983.33 of that total amount, in addition to approximately $35,700.00 in loans or advances on his settlement from the law firms representing him. The trucking company’s insurer paid out approximately $2,100,000.00 for HARRIS’s claim. HARRIS received approximately $675,000.00 of that total amount, in addition to approximately $14,600.00 in loans or advances on her settlement from the law firm representing her.”

A judge ruled that Robinson, Harris and their co-conspirators be held jointly and severally liable for restitution in the total amount of $5,073,358.25. 

 Schaffer was previously sentenced to 30 months in prison in relation to the scheme.

Keishira Robinson previously pleaded guilty to charges related to her role in the scheme.