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News Alert: New Orleans lawyer indicted in staged-accident scheme

The Louisiana staged-accident scheme investigation has scooped up one of the alleged organizers.

Danny P. Keating, a New Orleans attorney, was indicted Thursday in the Eastern District of Louisiana on one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, according to an announcement from the office of U.S. attorney for the district, Peter Strasser.

The earlier guilty plea of Damian Labeaud in the scandal appears to have been a key part of the indictment against Keating. According to the prepared statement issued by Strasser’s office, “Labeaud referred staged accidents to Keating and other New Orleans personal injury attorneys referenced in the Indictment as Attorneys A, B, and C, for $1,000 per passenger for accidents involving tractor-trailers and $500 per passenger for accidents not involving tractor-trailers.”

Attorneys A, B and C are references to unnamed individuals cited in the earlier indictments of people charged in the staged-accident cases. The modus operandi in the cases was largely similar: A group of people organized by personal injury attorneys would seek out mostly tractor-trailers in order stage a collision, fake injuries (possibly with the cooperation of doctors involved in the scheme, though that has not been confirmed), and seek payouts from the truck companies or their insurers. It was thought that Keating might have been one of attorneys A, B or C, but the indictment shows that is not the case.

The activity was lucrative. Keating had paid Labeaud for 31 accidents, represented 77 clients who became plaintiffs and settled 17 of the cases. The payouts were about $1.5 million in total, with Keating keeping about $358,000, according to the indictment.

”Mr. Keating was supposed to uphold the law rather than manipulate it to benefit himself and other co-conspirators financially,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Bryan Vorndran was quoted as saying in the prepared statement. “This indictment is the culmination of an investigation conducted by Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts who worked tirelessly to bring Mr. Keating to justice and is one of many in this case that hopefully will deter others from fraudulently filing false auto and medical insurance claims.” 

Keating is the 33rd person indicted in connection with the case. He also is the target of a RICO civil suit filed by Southeastern Motor Freight, which had been involved in one of the alleged staged accidents. 

FreightWaves will continue to follow this story as it develops.

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.