The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Duane A. Evans, announced that five more defendants entered guilty pleas, admitting to participating in a scheme to crash vehicles into tractor-trailers, and with the help of local attorneys sued to get money from the victim trucking and insurance companies.
All five of the defendants pled guilty in federal court on May 25 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and admitted that in 2017 they drove in from outside of New Orleans to pull off the two crashes with tractor-trailers. The accidents were led by Damien Labeaud and Roderick Hickman, both “slammers” from the New Orleans area. Labeaud and Hickman already pled guilty under separate indictments that are part of the federal probe that so far netted 33 defendants, most of which have pled guilty.
Cornelius Garrison, a different “slammer,” was gunned down at his home in the New Orleans area just days after being named in a federal indictment alleging a different set of staged accidents.
Federal prosecutors claim that the local attorneys involved in the scheme knew that Labeuad and Hickman were staging accidents, and according to the New Orleans Advocate, Daniel Patrick Keating Jr., one of the local attorneys involved, will plead guilty in federal court sometime in June.
According to the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the five who pled guilty May 25 are Lois Russell, Tanya Givens and Henry Randle, all of Gibson, Louisiana; John Diggs, Thibodaux, Louisiana, and Dakota Diggs, Fort Smith, Arkansas.
According to the guilty plea, on March 27, 2017, Russell, Givens and John Diggs conspired with passenger James Williams to stage an accident with a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road. Driving Russell’s 2007 Mercury Mountaineer, Hickman intentionally struck the 18-wheeler and then fled the scene with Labeaud. Russell told the responding officers that she was the driver, and she, along with Givens and John Diggs, made claims for personal injuries.
The trucking and insurance companies, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, paid out $272,500 for these fraudulent claims.
In addition, Randle and Dakota Diggs admitted to being involved in the first staged accident that Labeaud had planned and executed on May 17, 2017. The pair traveled together from Terrebonne Parish with Ryan Wheaten and met up with Labeaud and Mario Solomon who acted as the “spotter”.
Dakota Diggs, in her guilty plea statement, admitted that the group “drove around looking for a tractor-trailer to collide with.”
The victim truck was a tractor-trailer owned by Stevie B’s Trucking which the group spotted in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 90 East and Calliope Street in New Orleans.
“Hold on,” Labeaud said, and made sure “all passengers were awake, alert and braced for impact,” Dakota Diggs said in her statement of guilt.
Solomon, who was sentenced in January to staging accidents, flagged down the big rig driver and blamed him for the crash. Randle then falsely reported to the New Orleans Police Department that he had been driving when the tractor-trailer had struck his vehicle.
Shortly after the accident, Labeaud and Solomon went on to stage a second accident in the vicinity of Louisa Street and Chickasaw Street with Bernell Gale, Troy Smith, Marvel Francois, and an unnamed passenger. Labeaud, Solomon, Wheaten, Gale, Smith, and Francois were also charged for staging accidents with Labeaud, Solomon, Gale, Smith, and Francois already pleading guilty.
Randle, Dakota Diggs and Wheaten made claims for personal injuries from the staged accident, and the victim trucking and insurance companies paid out approximately $10,000 for these fraudulent claims.
According to the New Orleans Advocate, Randle and Diggs received payments from attorneys as “advances on settlement” and Diggs said she was told “to injure herself before chiropractic appointments.”
Russell, Givens, Randle, John Diggs, and Dakota Diggs face a maximum of five years in prison. In addition, upon release from prison Russell, Givens, Randle, John Diggs, and Dakota Diggs face a term of supervised release of up to three years, and/or face a fine of $250,000 or the greater of twice the gross gain to each defendant or twice the gross loss to any person.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledged the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police, and the Metropolitan Crime Commission in the investigation of the staged accidents in the New Orleans area.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward J. Rivera, Maria Carboni, Shirin Hakimzadeh, and Brain M. Klebba.
Klebba is the Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit.
Sentencing is schedule before U.S. District Judge Lance Africk on September 15, 2021.