Just when it looked like the Louisiana staged accident scam investigation might be winding down, the U.S. prosecutor in the case has unsealed a new set of indictments.
After a guilty plea by an individual last month, 27 of the 33 individuals who had been indicted in the staged accident scheme up to that point had pleaded guilty, including the one attorney who had been charged.
But on Monday, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Duane Evans announced the indictment of seven more individuals he said were involved in the scheme in which collisions were staged between a car and a truck driven by an unwitting driver. That brings the total indictments up to 40.
The individuals indicted were all participants on the road, rather than being behind the planning. “Spotters” and “slammers” were the titles of the jobs given to the people filling those roles.
The individuals indicted are all listed as being from New Orleans: Ashley McGowan, 35; Lertrice Johnson, 45; Davienque Johnson, 27; Herbert Allen, 36; Trolynn Brown, 34; Dion Ridley, 22; and Jarvis Brown, 29.
The indictment appears to mean two things: Some of the 27 individuals who have pleaded guilty are giving up the names of more participants, which was assumed given that earlier statements by the U.S. Attorney’s Office had said they were cooperating, and if there are lawyers or doctors still to be indicted, it isn’t showing up yet.
The trucking companies that were victims of the staged accidents, according to the new indictment, were Transportation Consultants, based in Texarkana, Arkansas, in a collision that occurred June 8, 2016, and Gramercy, Louisiana-based Frisard’s Trucking Co. in a staged collision that occurred in late June 2017.
The lawsuits involving the truck from Frisard’s resulted in payouts that totaled roughly $260,000. The Transportation Consultants lawsuits went to mediation and settled for approximately $545,000.
According to the indictment, the setup for the collisions was largely the same plan that appears in virtually all the other indictments and guilty pleas: A team is put together with an attorney leading the way, a spotter looks for potential victims and identifies that to the cars filled with passengers — the “slammers” — who then collide with the truck. In some cases, the actual driver gets out of the car and somebody else gets in their place.
The new indictments, as they have been in other cases, are for violations of federal mail fraud laws. Mail fraud comes into play because the U.S. Postal Service was used as part of the scheme, including the mailing of settlement checks to the now-indicted participants in the scam. Additionally, in some cases, the participants in the scam were given cash advances against the expected payouts to come.
As in other indictments, several attorneys are identified solely by a letter: attorneys, A, B, C and D. Only one attorney, Danny Keating, has been indicted in connection with the scam. He pleaded guilty in June.