Two Plead Guilty to Federal Wire Fraud Connected to Scheme to Defraud The Department of Veteran Affairs
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced today the Indictment of DAMIAN K. LABEAUD (“LABEAUD”), age 47, of New Orleans and LUCINDA THOMAS (“THOMAS”), age 63, MARY WADE (“WADE”), age 55, JUDY WILLIAMS (“WILLIAMS”), age 59, and DASHONTAE YOUNG (“YOUNG”), age 25, all of Houma, Louisiana. These five defendants were charged in a six-count federal indictment with one (1) count of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 and five (5) counts of Wire Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five (5) years for Count 1 and twenty (20) years as to Counts 2-6. Upon their release from prison, each defendant can be placed on a term of supervised release up to five (5) years and fined up to $250,000.00 per count.
According to the Indictment, on June 6, 2017, 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 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 an Arkansas trucking company. At approximately 12:30 P.M., LABEAUD intentionally collided with the tractor-trailer. LABEAUD then exited THOMAS’ vehicle and instructed THOMAS to get behind the wheel of THOMAS’ Avalanche to make it appear that THOMAS was driving the vehicle at the time of the staged accident.
THOMAS, WADE, WILLIAMS, and YOUNG contacted the New Orleans Police Department (“NOPD”) and falsely reported that THOMAS had been the driver of the Avalanche and that the traitor-trailer had struck her vehicle. LABEAUD then returned to the scene and also made false statements to the NOPD that he had witnessed the accident and that the driver of the tractor-trailer had been at fault.
According to the Indictment, before and after the staged accident, LABEAUD contacted Attorney A and arranged a meeting with THOMAS, WADE, WILLIAMS, and YOUNG at a fast food restaurant on Chef Menteur Highway. It is further alleged in the Indictment that Attorney A paid LABEAUD $7,500.00 on the day of the staged accident. Attorney A then demanded approximately $1,000,000.00 per plaintiff in settlement for 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 filed in CDC by Attorney A were 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.
Ultimately, but only after a year of pursuing their fraudulent lawsuits, did THOMAS, WADE, and WILLIAMS settle their cases for $7,500.00 each. Each of these five defendants are charged with substantive counts of Wire Fraud based on settlement payments issued by the victim trucking company.
THOMAS, WADE, WILLIAMS, and YOUNG were ordered to appear for an initial appearance and arraignment on this Indictment. LABEAUD was arrested today by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the indictment was returned by the Grand Jury.
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, Supervisor of the Financial Crimes Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Rivera, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh, and Trial Attorney Jared Hasten of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Fraud Section, Health Care Fraud Unit.