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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Seven More Charged in Staged Automobile Collision Scheme

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA United States Attorney Duane A. Evans recently unsealed the indictment of FLORENCE RANDLE (“RANDLE”), age 70, of Gibson; STACIE WHEATEN (“WHEATEN”), age 50, of Atlanta; JOSEPH BREWTON (“BREWTON”), age 56, of Houma; DAVID BROWN (“BROWN”), age 50, of Morgan City; GILDA HENDERSON (HENDERSON), age 69, of Morgan City; LATRELL JOHNSON (“JOHNSON”), age 30, of New Orleans; and LARRY PICOU (“PICOU”), age 56, of Gibson.  The indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury on February 3, 2022 and unsealed after the arrests of BROWN and PICOU.  This indictment brings the total number of defendants charged in the federal probe into the staging of accidents with tractor-trailers to 47. 

All seven defendants were charged in a 10-count federal indictment.  All of the defendants were charged in Count 1 with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  BREWTON was charged in Counts 2-7 with Mail Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2.  BROWN, HENDERSON, JOHNSON, and PICOU were charged in Counts 5 and 6 with Mail Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2.  RANDLE and WHEATEN were charged in Counts 7 through 10, which charge Mail Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five (5) years for Count 1 and twenty (20) years as to each of the Mail Fraud counts.  Upon their release from prison, each defendant can be placed on a term of supervised release for up to five (5) years and fined up to $250,000.00 per count.  A mandatory special assessment fee of $100 per count is also applicable.

According to court documents, BREWTON, RANDLE, and WHEATEN served as intermediaries who directed passengers to participate in staged automobile accidents.  BREWTON helped to arrange collisions that took place on March 27, 2017 and May 11, 2017.  RANDLE and WHEATEN helped to coordinate collisions on May 17, 2017 and June 5, 2017.

 The indictment alleges that BROWN, HENDERSON, JOHNSON, and PICOU falsely claimed that they were passengers in a car that was struck by a tractor-trailer on May 11, 2017.  In fact, the defendants conspired with BREWTON, Damian Labeaud (“Labeaud”), Mario Solomon (“Solomon”), and others to intentionally collide with a tractor-trailer in the area of Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road in New Orleans.  After the intentional collision, BROWN, HENDERSON, JOHNSON, and PICOU made a false police report, lied in depositions, and filed fraudulent lawsuits claiming that the tractor-trailer was at fault.  This scheme caused the insurance company for the tractor-trailer to pay over $140,000.00 in settlement funds. 

U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that the indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

 

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Updated February 9, 2022