Four more people have been charged in a widespread staged-accident scheme, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana announced Oct. 16.
The four defendants are Louisiana residents Anthony Robinson, 66; Audrey Harris, 53; Jerry Schaffer, 65; and Keishira Robinson, 25. They were charged in a three-count federal indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years for conspiracy and up to 20 years for mail fraud.
The indictment brings the total number of defendants charged in this federal probe into the staging of accidents with tractor-trailers to 32.
The charges stem from a scheme to intentionally stage car crashes with tractor-trailers in order to defraud trucking and insurance companies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says in a press release.
According to the indictment, an unnamed co-conspirator, Harris, Schaffer and Keishira Robinson allegedly intentionally collided with a tractor-trailer on Oct. 13, 2015, in New Orleans.
The co-conspirator was then picked up from the collision site by Damian Labeaud, who pled guilty to a previous indictment in the case. Anthony Robinson, who had allegedly been in Labeaud’s vehicle, then got behind the wheel of his own vehicle to make it appear he had been driving at the time of the staged accident, the indictment says.
The passengers were referred to an attorney who paid Labeaud and Co-Conspirator A to stage accidents. All of the defendants were treated by doctors and health care providers at the direction of their attorney. Anthony Robinson, Harris and Schaffer underwent surgeries.
In total, the victim trucking and insurance companies paid out about $4.7 million for the fraudulent claims associated with this staged accident.
This high-profile case illustrates how fraud is contributing to skyrocketing insurance rates in Louisiana. Bus & Motorcoach News recently reported about the impact this is having on the bus industry.
The state’s plaintiff-friendly Legislature has produced unusually high judgments. Lawsuits drain the state’s economy — nearly $7 billion in expenses related to tort litigation in 2016, the last year for which figures are available. As a result, many are calling for tort reform.
Currently, the Louisiana fraud economy ranks among the top five states in the nation, with litigation costs equaling almost 3% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).