Five Charged in Alleged “Staged” Big Rig Crash and Multi-Million Dollar Shake Down
New Orleans, LA – Five people are facing conspiracy and fraud charges after allegedly staging an accident with a big rig and then demanding a multi-million dollar payout.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Damian Labeaud, age 47, Lucinda Thomas, age 63, Mary Wade, age 55, Judy Williams, age 59, and Dashontae Young, age 25, have been indicted on charges of one count of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and five counts of Wire Fraud.
The charges stem from a staged accident that occurred on June 6, 2017.
According to the indictment, Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young drove from Houma, LA, to meet with Labeaud for the purpose of staging an automobile accident in order to obtain money through fraud.
After their meeting, Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young agreed to allow Labeaud to drive Thomas’ 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche vehicle, the indictment says.
The defendants then drove around the vicinity of Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road of New Orleans until they located a 2017 Freightliner tractor-trailer operated by Arkansas-based trucking company, Southern Refrigerated Transport (SRT).
SRT is owned by Chattanooga, TN-based Covenant Transport.
At approximately 12:30 p.m., Labeaud intentionally collided with the big rig, court documents say.
Prosecutor’s allege, he then exited Thomas’ vehicle and instructed Thomas to get behind the wheel of the Avalanche to make it appear that Thomas was driving the vehicle at the time of the staged accident.
Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young then contacted the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and “falsely reported” that Thomas had been the driver of the Avalanche and that the SRT big rig had struck her vehicle.
Labeaud then returned to the scene and also allegedly “made false statements to the NOPD” that he had witnessed the accident and that the driver of the tractor-trailer had been at fault, court documents say.
Further, prosecutors allege that before and after the staged accident, Labeaud contacted “Attorney A” and arranged a meeting with the defendants at a fast food restaurant on Chef Menteur Highway.
It is further alleged that “Attorney A” paid Labeaud $7,500.00 on the day of the staged accident.
“Attorney A” then allegedly demanded approximately $1,000,000.00 in a settlement for each Thomas, Wade, and Williams.
“Attorney A” then filed two lawsuits in the Civil District Court (CDC) for the Parish of Orleans.
Both of the lawsuits were subsequently removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The indictment alleges that Thomas, Wade, and Williams each provided “false testimony in various depositions taken in conjunction with the lawsuits” filed by “Attorney A.”
According to the indictment, Thomas, Wade, and Williams settled their cases for $7,500.00 each after a year of pursuing the multi-million dollar payout.
According to court documents, each of these five defendants are charged with Wire Fraud based on settlement payments issued by SRT.
Thomas, Wade, and Williams and Young were ordered to appear for an initial appearance and arraignment.
Labeaud was arrested on October 24, 2019 by the FBI after the indictment was returned.
Each defendant now faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Each defendant also faces up to 5 years of supervised release and a fine of up to $1,250,000.