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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Defendants from Orleans and Jefferson Parishes Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Stage Automobile Accidents in Order to Defraud Insurance and Trucking Companies

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced today that DONIESHA GIBSON (“GIBSON”), age 29, of New Orleans, Louisiana and ERICA LEE THOMPSON (“ERICA LEE”), age 46, of Harvey, Louisiana, entered guilty pleas today to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, arising out of staged automobile accidents with tractor-trailers occurring in New Orleans before United States District Court Judge Sarah S. Vance.

According to today’s guilty pleas, GIBSON and ERICA LEE, along with their co-conspirators and others, beginning in approximately as early as 2015 and continuing through the present, conspired to commit wire fraud in connection with staged accidents with Cornelius Garrison, including two that occurred on October 15, 2015, and September 6, 2017.  Today’s guilty pleas bring the total number of defendants convicted in “Operation Sideswipe” to twenty-two (22).

Today, GIBSON admitted to being a passenger in a staged accident on October 15, 2015.   On that day, her former co-defendant intentionally drove a 2014 Dodge Avenger owned by GIBSON into a Hotard bus while traveling on the I-10 near the flyover of the I-510.   GIBSON retained an attorney and thereafter made a claim for damages. The total settlement for the Hotard bus accident was approximately $677,500.

ERICA LEE admitted that on September 6, 2017, on the I-10 near the Almonaster exit, she was a passenger in LEE’s 2015 RAV4 being driven by their former co-defendant, when he intentionally crashed into a tractor-trailer owned by Averitt Express.  ERICA LEE retained counsel and made a claim for damages. The total settlement for the Averitt accident was $30,000.

In total, the victim trucking, bus, and insurance companies paid out approximately $707,500.00 for these two fraudulent claims orchestrated by the defendants and others.

GIBSON and ERICA LEE face a maximum sentence of five (5) years of incarceration. Upon release from prison, each defendant also faces a term of supervised release of up to (3) three years, and/or a fine of $250,000 or the greater of twice the gross gain to each defendant or twice the gross loss to any person under Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Sentencing in this matter is scheduled for November 3, 2021, before United States District Judge Sarah S. Vance.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office would also like to acknowledge the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police, and the Metropolitan Crime Commission with this matter. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit; Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward J. Rivera; Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni. 

 

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Updated June 16, 2021