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Federal RICO Suit Alleges New Orleans Personal Injury Attorney Staged Truck Crashes

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A federal racketeering lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges a New Orleans personal injury attorney and two con artists engaged in a corruption scheme involving staging traffic collisions to rip-off trucking and insurance companies. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act complaint names attorney Daniel Patrick Keating as well as two accomplices, Damian Labeaud and Mario Solomon. Labeaud and Solomon recently issued federal guilty pleas after being accused of orchestrating a series of fraudulent accidents.

The scheme reportedly entailed using cars packed with passengers to intentionally sideswipe 18-wheelers in an effort to collect money for injuries through insurance policies and fraudulent lawsuits. Following the accidents, those passengers from the cars would file personal injury claims to collect settlements for what were reportedly exaggerated or non-existent injuries.

According to the complaint, Labeaud – the admitted ringleader in the scheme – was paid by Keating to act as the driver of the “slammer” car that would initiate the accident. Keating would coordinate with one or more people in a separate “spotter” car to intentionally set up a collision with a preselected truck.

The suit, filed by Southeastern Motor Freight Inc., alleges that Keating’s payments resulted in client referrals for alleged crash victims. Moreover, the suit claims the scheme provided Keating, along with additional personal injury attorneys, leverage whereby trucking companies and insurers could be pressured with demands for exorbitant settlements.

Labeaud, 48, is one of eight individuals who pleaded guilty to federal charges in recent months, all in relation to this particular fraudulent collision scheme. Court documents refer to two specific setup crashes that took place within the scheme, occurring in nearly the exact same location near a bridge approximately one week apart in June 2017.

According to the complaint, “Defendant D. Patrick Keating established, financed, owned, operated, and/or participated in the management of law offices presenting the fraudulent claims at issue.”

“This includes…conspiring with and paying Damian Labeaud to recruit individuals to knowingly participate in a scheme to stage at least 40 automobile accidents in the New Orleans area in an effort to defraud insurance and trucking companies,” Doug Williams, one of the attorneys representing the trucking company, said.

Filing a lawsuit under the RICO statute allows plaintiffs to sue for damages provided they are able to prove they were victims of a criminal conspiracy. Unlike standard civil lawsuits where a narrow rationale for collecting damages must be specified, RICO lawsuits allow plaintiffs to ask for treble (triple) damages.

The aforementioned scheme is reportedly one of many that have occurred in recent years, all with the same modus operandi. In addition to Tuesday’s complaint, a separate indictment from last month charged 11 other defendants as participants in accident scams throughout the state of Louisiana, including named ringleader, Roderick Hickman, of Baton Rouge.

A 30-page indictment from August 21 made local headlines and has been the scuttlebutt of the New Orleans legal community. That indictment refers to five local personal injury attorneys – identified only as A, B, C, D, and E – as working closely with the defendants. In a similar fashion to Tuesday’s complaint, the August indictment details attorneys utilizing “runners” to secure traffic accident clients through staged collisions.

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner, Jim Donelon, indicated via public statement that such fraud increases car insurance costs in the state by approximately $600 a year per family.

The trucking company is represented by Douglas Williams, Kelsey Ann Clark, and Christopher Mason of Breazeale Sachse & Wilson LLP.