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Two charged with murdering federal cooperating witness in New Orleans staged big rig crash scheme


Two people have been indicted in connection with the shooting death of a man who was assisting federal authorities in their investigation into a widespread scheme to stage semi truck crashes in New Orleans.

Ryan Harris, 35, and Jovanna Gardner, 39, have been indicted on five counts related to conspiracy to use murder as a tool for witness tampering, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana announced on Tuesday, May 7.

Harris and Gardner were indicted in connection to the September 22, 2020, death of Cornelius Garrison. Garrison was shot multiple times at his home in Gentilly.

The pair were arrested by FBI special agents on Monday, May 6.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that Harris, Gardner, and Garrison were participants in a scheme to stage collisions with commercial vehicles in the Metro New Orleans area in order to make fraudulent insurance claims and file fraudulent lawsuits.

Harris allegedly acted as a “slammer,” a person who would intentionally crash into a semi truck, then flee the scene, allowing a passenger to falsely claim to have been behind the wheel.

Garrison worked as a slammer and as a “spotter,” a person who would drive the getaway car for the slammer and would sometimes present as eyewitness to the staged crash, alleging that the truck driver was at fault.

In October 2019, Garrison began covertly cooperating with government investigators prior to his indictment on September 18, 2020, on charges of Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and other offenses.

“The Indictment alleges that on September 22, 2020, Harris and Gardner murdered, and aided and abetted the murder of Garrison as part of a scheme to prevent Garrison from cooperating with the federal government and exposing the scheme to stage collisions,” officials say.

Charges against Harris and Gardner include Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Witness Tampering Through Murder, Witness Tampering Through Murder,  Retaliation Against a Witness Through Murder, and Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness Through Murder.

If convicted, Harris and Gardner could face life in prison.

So far, fifty-two people have been charged in the big rig staged crash scheme.


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