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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Three More Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Stage Automobile Accidents In Order To Defraud Insurance and Trucking Companies

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced RODERICK HICKMAN (“HICKMAN”), age 49, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; BERNELL GALE (“GALE”), age 43, of Raceland, Louisiana; and TROY SMITH (“SMITH”), age 56, also of Houma, Louisiana, entered a plea of guilty today to 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 today’s guilty plea, on March 27, 2017, HICKMAN along with four defendants who have also been charged by indictment, intentionally collided with a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road.  HICKMAN intentionally struck the 18 wheeler and then fled the scene with Damian Labeaud (“Labeaud”), who pled guilty to a previous indictment charging him and seven others with staging automobile accidents.

On May 17, 2020, Labeaud participated in another staged accident in the vicinity of Louisa Street and Chickasaw Street.  The participants in the Louisa Street staged accident were GALE, SMITH, Francois, and another passenger.  Again, Labeaud fled the scene.  Francois falsely reported to the NOPD that she had been driving and that the tractor-trailer had struck her vehicle.

According to documents filed in federal court, the passengers were referred to attorneys who paid HICKMAN and Labeaud to stage the accidents.  In some cases, the attorneys knew that the participants were uninjured but referred them to medical providers for treatment to increase the value of subsequent lawsuits.  In total, the victim trucking and insurance companies paid out $277,500.00 for these fraudulent claims.       

HICKMAN, GALE, and SMITH face a maximum sentence of five (5) years. Upon release from prison, HICKMAN, GALE, and SMITH also face a term of supervised release 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 February 10, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk.

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 Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni.

 

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Updated October 21, 2020