Lafayette Man Sentenced for Conspiring to Stage Automobile Accidents
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that RYAN WHEATEN (“WHEATEN”), age 54, of Lafayette, Louisiana, was sentenced on January 12, 2022 for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, arising out of staged automobile accidents with tractor-trailers occurring in New Orleans.
According to court documents, on May 17, 2017, WHEATEN, along with participants Damien Labeaud (“Labeaud”), Mario Solomon (“Solomon”), Henry Randle (“Randle”), and Dakota Diggs (“D. Diggs”), staged an automobile collision with a tractor-trailer in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 90 East and Calliope Street in New Orleans. Labeaud purposely drove the vehicle into a tractor-trailer and then fled the scene with Solomon. Randle falsely reported to the New Orleans Police Department that he had been driving and that the tractor-trailer was at fault. Shortly thereafter, Labeaud and Solomon went on to stage a second accident in the vicinity of Louisa Street and Chickasaw Street with Bernell Gale (“Gale”), Troy Smith (“Smith”), Marvel Francois (“Francois”), and another passenger. In addition to WHEATEN, Labeaud, Solomon, Gale, Smith, and Francois were also charged and pled guilty.
After the staged collision, WHEATEN, Randle, and D. Diggs made claims for personal injuries. The victim insurance companies paid out approximately $10,000.00 for these fraudulent claims.
U.S. District Court Judge Lance M. Africk sentenced WHEATEN to serve 10 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. WHEATEN was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $11,000. Judge Africk also imposed a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Metropolitan Crime Commission with this matter. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward J. Rivera, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon S. Long.