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5 additional guilty pleas in Louisiana staged-accident scam

Total number of guilty pleas rises to 13

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

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.

More articles by John Kingston 

Quartet of Louisiana staged accident slammers and other participants plead guilty to federal charges

Trio pleads guilty to involvement in Louisiana staged accidents

Indicted attorney allegedly wasn’t first to direct Louisiana staged accident scheme

John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.