‘Slammers,’ ‘spotters,’ crooked lawyers: 4 more indicted in New Orleans staged accident scam
By Drew Broach
Four more people have been indicted on charges of staging a $4.7 million vehicle accident in New Orleans, in a widening federal investigation of “slammers,” “spotters” and crooked lawyers accused of conspiring to bilk insurance companies for damages.
Filed Friday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, the three-count indictment opens a new chapter in a prosecution that has now targeted 32 defendants – one of whom was shot dead just four days after being charged. The newly accused are Anthony Robinson, Audrey Harris, Jerry Schaffer and Keishira Robinson. Both Robinsons and Harris are related, but the indictment does not specify how.
The wreck happened Oct. 13, 2015, after Anthony Robinson set it up during a meeting with Damien Labeaud and the unidentified Co-Conspirator A at an apartment complex in New Orleans East, the indictment says
Labeaud pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August. He and Co-Conspirator A were “runners” for a law firm, referring acquaintances from at least 20 legitimate car wrecks to attorneys for representation. In staged accidents, they functioned as slammers, who steered vehicles into collisions with big commercial trucks and buses, and as spotters, who followed in another vehicle to spirit away the slammer before police arrived.
At the apartment meeting, Robinson allegedly paid Labeaud $2,000 then left with Harris, Schaffer and Keishira Robinson in a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe. Labeaud and Co-Conspirator A followed in another vehicle. Soon they pulled over so Anthony Robinson and Co-Conspirator A could switch places.
At about 6:15 p.m., they spied a target: a southbound 2016 Freightliner tractor-trailer changing lanes on Alvar Street near France Road.
Co-Conspirator A crashed the Tahoe into the big rig then exited the SUV, and Anthony Robinson took his place behind the steering wheel, the indictment says. Co-Conspirator A got into the other vehicle, driven by Labeaud, and fled.
Harris called New Orleans police to report the “accident,” the indictment says, and Anthony Robinson told investigators he had been driving the Tahoe when the semi struck it.
After police left, the four defendants rendezvoused with Labeaud at a gasoline station then visited Attorney A, who allegedly paid Labeaud $1,500 for the wreck.
The lawyer got a colleague, Attorney B, to file suit in Orleans Parish Civil District Court for Harris, Schaffer and Keishira Robinson, and referred Anthony Robinson’s complaint to Attorney C to file a cross claim, according to the indictment. The three attorneys allegedly gave the defendants a total of $64,570 in loans or cash advances while the case was litigated, and two of them referred Anthony Robinson, Harris and Schaffer to doctors for neck or back surgery.
All four defendants are accused of lying in depositions for the lawsuit.
The victims of the scam were C.R. England Inc. of Salt Lake City, which owned and tractor-trailer and employed its driver, and Chubb Limited, a global insurer based in Zurich, Switzerland. The indictment says they ultimately settled the case for $4,725,000 plus mediation costs:
- $2.1 million for Harris, who netted $675,000 after deducting attorney fees and advances.
- $1.5 million for Anthony Robinson, who netted $534,983
- $1 million for Schaffer, who netted $430,464
- $125,000 for Keishira Robinson, who netted $40,081.
Of the 32 defendants in the criminal prosecutions, alleged slammer Cornelius Garrison III, was shot to death Sept. 24 in a Gentilly residence, and authorities suspect he might have been killed to silence a snitch. Two other suspected slammers, though not indicted, also have died during the investigation.