Five more individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with their role in the Louisiana staged-accident scam, bringing the total number of guilty pleas to double digits.
The guilty pleas are notable because they are the first under the direction of Duane Evans, interim U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Evans replaced Peter Strasser, who left office at the end of the Trump administration, an expected move when administrations change.
The five pleas bring the total number of guilty pleas to at least 13, based on FreightWaves’ review of past Justice Department news releases. Indictments in the scam have totaled more than 30. There were three separate sets of guilty pleas last year, one from December, one from October and an earlier one by defendant Damian Labeaud, the first to admit guilt.
All of the individuals who pleaded guilty were either drivers or passengers in the cars that staged collisions with trucks. (One of the collisions not part of the latest guilty plea involved a motor coach bus.) The guilty pleas have all been on the federal charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
In the latest round, Lois Russell, Tanya Givens and John Diggs pleaded guilty in connection with a staged collision that took place March 27, 2017. In that collision, they worked with Labeaud and Roderick Hickman, who already have pleaded guilty.
“Hickman, while driving Russell’s car, intentionally struck the 18-wheeler and then fled the scene with Labeaud,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in its prepared statement about the guilty pleas. “Russell advised [New Orleans police] that she was the driver and she, along with Givens and (John) Diggs, made claims for personal injuries. In total, the victim trucking and insurance companies paid out $275,500 for these fraudulent claims.”
In another part of the guilty plea, Henry Randle and Dakota Diggs, the other two defendants who pleaded guilty, admitted participating in another staged accident that also involved several people who pleaded guilty earlier.
“Randle falsely reported to the [New Orleans Police] that he had been driving and that the tractor-trailer had struck his vehicle,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. That incident resulted in a lesser payout of approximately $10,000.
The five who pleaded guilty face up to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. They also face a fine of up to $25,000.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 15.
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