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C.R. England slaps attorneys for staged-accident participants in Louisiana with RICO suit

Names now attached to lawyers first identified in indictments only by letters

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Truckload carrier C.R. England, the company that court records suggest paid out the greatest amount of money in the Louisiana staged-accident scandal, is fighting back with a lawsuit in federal court. 

In the suit filed earlier this week, C.R. England takes aim at the King Law Firm of Baton Rouge, suing one of its attorneys under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act and citing two others as involved in the scheme. 

This is the second RICO lawsuit filed in connection with the case.The first one also targets an attorney, Danny Keating. That one was filed last year by Southeastern Motor Freight. 

Keating also was indicted for his alleged role in the staged accidents. So far, he is the only person who was not involved with the accidents as a so-called “slammer” or “spotter” on the ground to face an indictment. The spotters and slammers were people who identified vehicles that they would try to collide with, and would then be in the car when the accident occured.

Representing the trucking companies in both cases is the law firm of Breazeale, Chase & Wilson of Baton Rouge, led by Douglas Williams.

The events leading up to the staged accidents are described in somewhat greater detail in the RICO suit than they have been in the various indictments or guilty pleas that the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has managed to obtain. But they follow a similar pattern: A truck is identified as a target, a car full of people stages an accident with the truck, and the scammers claim injuries and seek payouts. 

But there are several notable charges made in the C.R. England lawsuit.

In particular, three King Law Firm attorneys are identified not only by name but are also linked to the alphabetically identified lawyers in the indictments. Attorneys who were identified in the indictments and guilty pleas were defined at times as Attorneys A, B, C, D and E. No names were provided, and besides Keating, none have been indicted.

But in the C.R. England RICO suit, the company says that some of the letter-identified lawyers were Jason F. Giles of the King Firm, James. E. Courtenay of King, Anthony Milazzo of King,  and Toni Amona of the Amona Rose Law Firm of New Orleans. The C.R. England suit says it believes those lawyers are the alphabet-linked attorneys mentioned in the lawsuit “upon information and belief.”

Giles is a defendant in the C.R. England lawsuit, as is the King firm itself and a firm owned by Giles. Courtenay, Milazzo and Amona are not defendants in the C.R. England suit. 

All the attorneys charged in the RICO suit or mentioned in it represented the slammers and spotters in their legal actions after the 2015 accident with a C.R. England truck.

The slammers and spotters are names that have been heard before. They were indicted for their role in the accidents and all pleaded guilty: Damian Labeaud, whose cooperation has been seen as vital in making further indictments, as well as Roderick Hickman, Anthony Robinson, Audrey Harris, Jerry Schaffer and Keishira Robinson. 

Hickman and Labeaud are identified in the C.R. England suit as ringleaders. Another identified ringleader, Cornelius Garrison, was gunned down in his home soon after he was indicted in September. No arrests have been made in that shooting. 

Since the individual indictments deal with specific incidents, getting a full count of the number of staged accidents has been difficult. But the attorneys for C.R. England do the math in the RICO lawsuit. They say that there were at least 150 separate staged accidents between 2015 and 2018 as part of the scheme. The U.S. attorney’s office says there have been 15 guilty pleas and 33 indictments. 

Although there may have been numerous accidents, the C.R. England lawsuit focuses on just one: an accident on October 13, 2015, whose settlement ultimately cost C.R. England and its insurers well over $4 million.

Among some of the details of that litigation and settlement spelled out in the C.R. England lawsuit:

— The driver of the C.R. England truck that collided with a Chevy Tahoe driven by the slammers and spotters was Ronan Ryan. After the staged accident, he was fired by C.R. England. He had received a citation from a police officer on the scene. In a deposition given in conjunction with the suit, Ryan testified he was making a left turn when he “noticed the Tahoe coming up behind him very fast.” “He believed the Tahoe was going to hit him, so he completely stopped his tractor trailer,” the lawsuit says. “However, the Tahoe missed the trailer and came to a complete stop next to the trailer. Seconds later, the driver of the Tahoe ‘punched the gas’ and ran the Tahoe along the side of the tractor trailer and ‘gently’ scraped the Tahoe against the tractor trailer. 

— Some details of post-accident medical treatment ordered for the “victims” have been revealed in earlier indictments. But the C.R. England lawsuit goes into further detail, while also identifying the doctors who were involved in administering those treatments — including surgeries — for injuries that might be viewed as phantom. Dr. Samer Shamieh, whose website describes him as a specialist in lower back pain, treated Robinson with spinal injections and a cervical fusion. Another doctor, Chad Domangue, ordered a process called a spinal cord stimulator. Later, attorney Amona demanded of C.R. England a settlement for Robinson of $4.8 million. Shamieh and Domangue are identified as having performed spinal treatments for other slammers and spotters. A third physician, Dr. Marco Rodriguez of Omega Hospital, is identified as performing back surgery on Schaffer. 

— Rumors that the spate of truck-car accidents in Louisiana were part of an ongoing fraud were rife and did come into the legal proceedings between the two sides. At one point, just before the settlement, C.R. England said attorneys Giles and Harris told their clients that they should settle because the FBI had started to investigate the accidents. C.R. England also had raised the possibility of fraud in some of its negotiations. But despite that, it decided to settle for a total of $4.725 million, with five separate checks cut on July 18, 2019. (When Labeaud, Robinson, Harris and Schaffer pleaded guilty in December, one of the demands of the U.S. attorney was that they give up expensive cars that they appear to have bought with their settlement payouts.)

.More articles by John Kingston

First sentence in Louisiana staged accidents: less than 2 years

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

Eleven charged with staging truck accidents in New Orleans

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.