Three more defendants in the Louisiana staged accident scheme received significantly different sentences in the latest adjudication of earlier guilty pleas in announcements made Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
One defendant, Chandrika Brown, received a 3-year probation for her role in the New Orleans-area staged accident in 2015 that struck a school bus — the only one of the documented fake incidents involving something other than a truck.
Another defendant, Keishira Robinson, received a 5-year probation. The 2015 staged accident at the heart of her guilty plea was with a C.R. England truck.
A third defendant, Aisha Thompson, was sentenced to 18 months in jail. The 2017 incident for which she was sentenced involved a truck operated by Averitt Express.
All three had pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud; all prior guilty pleas had been made under that federal statute.
The pace of guilty pleas and sentencings has picked up significantly in recent weeks at the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which has dubbed its investigation “Operation Sideswipe.”
Last week, a 69-year-old woman, Gilda Henderson, pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud in connection with the scheme, bringing the total number of guilty pleas to 36 out of 47 indictments.
Differences in the activities of the three latest defendants may have factored in the decisions to issue jail time for Thompson and not the other two.
In the case of Brown, she was in a car that collided with a bus operated by Hotard Coaches, a charter bus company, in October 2015. Following the staged accident, Brown and other defendants — some of whom also have pleaded guilty — hired a lawyer “and made demands against Hotard’s owner and insurer for personal injury damages,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s statement.
The money ultimately paid out to Brown and her fellow schemers was one of the larger payouts of those settlements disclosed through the various court proceedings: $677,500.
While Brown avoids jail time, she was required to pay restitution of just over $121,000 as well as a small special assessment fee.
Robinson’s crash with the C.R. England truck led to the biggest payout spelled out in any of the court documents regarding settlements: approximately $4.7 million. Robinson’s involvement appears to have solely been that of a passenger, based on the U.S. Attorney’s statement.
Other indictments in the case involve individuals who in some cases went through medical procedures to help establish injury, including at least three surgeries.
With that large payout by C.R. England a factor, Robinson was ordered to pay restitution of $4.725 million, as well as several other smaller assessments.
In the case of Thompson, she wasn’t even in the car that smacked into an Averitt Express truck in September 2017. Yet after the staged collision, she claimed to law enforcement that she was in the vehicle, hired an attorney and eventually was paid $30,000.
But according to the prepared statement on the sentences, she also provided false testimony at depositions taken in conjunction with her lawsuit. “In these depositions, Thompson and her co-defendants lied about the Sept. 6, 2017 accident including, but not limited to, who was driving the RAV4 and the extent of their injuries,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement said.
Nine people have been sentenced in staged accident scheme so far
The sentences bring to nine the total number of individuals sentenced in the scheme. Sentences have ranged from probation to home incarceration to four years in jail.
No defendants in the staged accident scheme have gone to trial. Only one lawyer involved in the scheme, Danny Keating, has been indicted. He pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Various statements in the U.S. Attorney’s release suggest that while not only is it likely to see more indictments of attorneys beyond Keating, as well as possible medical professionals who engaged in unnecessary procedures to establish injury, there are on-the-road participants who have not been indicted.
While several other individuals who have been indicted or pleaded guilty were identified by name in the U.S. Attorney’s statement, there also are references to “Passenger A” and “another individual.”
There also is a reference to a “former co-defendant” in the description of both the Brown and the Thompson crash. Since other co-defendants were identified by name in the U.S. Attorney’s statements, the former co-defendant is likely to be Cornelius Garrison, who was gunned down in his home shortly after he was indicted in September 2020. That indictment of Garrison specifically referred to crashes with the Hotard bus and the truck from Averitt Express..
No arrests have been made in Garrison’s killing.