Number of Guilty Pleas in Staged Accident Scams Reaches 41
Three additional participants in staged accidents with trucks in the New Orleans area have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud charges, bringing to 41 the number of convicted conspirators in the FBI’s “Operation Sideswipe” investigation.
Federal prosecutors said that two of the defendants, Herbert Allen, 37, and Dion Ridley, 23, on Oct. 12 admitted their role in a staged accident with a tractor-trailer.
Allen and Ridley face a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release of up to three years and a fine up to $250,000, for their role in a June 28, 2017, staged collision with a 2012 Freightliner tractor-trailer owned by Frisard’s Trucking Co., according to court documents.
The indictment said that Allen falsely claimed he was driving his vehicle in the collision, but authorities said he was only a passenger in the vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Impala.
Prosecutors said both defendants lied in civil depositions, falsely claiming that Allen was driving the car that collided with the tractor-trailer, when another individual was driving the car and intentionally hit the tractor-trailer.
Allen and Ridley, also a passenger in the vehicle, underwent medical treatment and their attorneys filed medical claims in court.
“Both defendants hoped that, through their false statements, they would secure lucrative monetary settlements from the owner, driver and insurer of the tractor-trailer,” Duane Evans, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said in a statement.
In a separate staged accident on May 11, 2017, Larry Picou, 56, of Gibson, La., on Oct. 12 accepted a Sept. 28 plea agreement to a one-count indictment on conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Picou also faces up to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release of up to three years and a fine up to $250,000.
Picou was a passenger traveling in a Ford Expedition that staged a crash with a 2013 International tractor-trailer owned by B.A.H. Express. Picou also was expecting to reach a large injury settlement.
The pleas by the three individuals were the most recent charged for their part in what federal authorities believe were more than 100 staged accidents involving trucks and cars in the New Orleans area.
So far, one attorney has been charged with filing fraudulent claims, but four other unidentified attorneys mentioned in charging documents also have been accused of criminal activity in the scams. News of the staged accidents in the New Orleans area was first made public in March 2019 for incidents involving two tractor-trailers in 2017. After the first round of indictments, attorneys representing trucking attorneys called the scams the “tip of the iceberg.”
Trucking companies that travel through the New Orleans area have since been alerted to the staged accidents by attorneys with trucking companies and insurance clients who were victims in the scheme. In 2019, attorneys representing victims and potential victims identified similarities among at least 30 cases.
Those suspicious accidents included multiple people in a claimant vehicle, sideswipe allegations with commercial vehicle trailers, minimal damage to claimant vehicle, little to no damage to the insured trailer and a commercial vehicle driver who is either unaware of or denies impact.
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