Federal authorities have secured three more guilty pleas in their case against scam artists who intentionally staged accidents with 18-wheelers to collect from fraudulent lawsuits.
Three Scammers Plead Guilty to Mail Fraud
Three more scammers pleaded guilty to their involvement in fraudulent 18-wheeler accidents—Roderick Hickman, 49, of Baton Rouge; Bernell Gale, 43, of Raceland; and Troy Smith, 56, of Houma. All three pleaded guilty to mail fraud.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Hickman worked as a key figure in the scam with the roles of organizing, speaking with local accident attorneys, packing cars with passengers, and intentionally sideswiping tractor trailers, mostly in eastern New Orleans. Because of his extensive role in the scam, Hickman and another key defendant Damian Labeaud will potentially act as government witnesses as the investigation narrows.
Key Ringleader Fatally Shot After Indictment
The already difficult case took on added urgency when the third key government witness, alleged ringleader Cornelius Garrison, was fatally shot four days after his own indictment was announced in September. The FBI began a murder investigation alongside the New Orleans Police Department, but for the moment, the murder remains unsolved.
So far, federal prosecutors have named 31 defendants in the case, more than a dozen of whom have pleaded guilty. Except for the key members already mentioned, most of the defendants are low-level players who were passengers in accidents or who filed injury lawsuits. The federal prosecutors say some of the defendants were paid in settlements for phantom or exaggerated injuries.
One line in Hickman’s indictment document shows the extent of the fraud: “It was further part of the scheme and artifice that from approximately 2015 to approximately 2017, Labeaud and Hickman staged at least one hundred (100) accidents.”
After pleading guilty, Hickman and his two co-defendants face a maximum of five years in prison.
Contact an Experienced Legal Malpractice Attorney
If a legal professional or service provider solicits you to represent you legally following an accident, contact Thomas J. Henry Law immediately. Thomas J. Henry Law has been fighting barratry and illegal case solicitation in South Texas for more than two decades. In 2007, Thomas J. Henry made headlines when he helped to bring down Mauricio Celis, a high-rolling case runner who falsely represented himself as an attorney (read more about this case in Texas Monthly.)
Our firm has offices in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin serving clients across Texas and nationwide. Let us help you get your money back from dishonest and unethical lawyers. Call us today for a free case review.