Feds issue more indictments in ‘Operation Sideswipe’
September 17, 2021
•Land Line Staff
Seven more individuals have been charged in connection with “Operation Sideswipe,” a sweeping conspiracy to deliberately crash cars into commercial vehicles and defraud trucking companies and their insurers.
U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced this week that the following individuals had been indicted in connection with Operation Sideswipe.
- Ashley McGowan, 35
- Lertrice Johnson, 45
- Davienque Johnson, 27
- Herbert Allen, 36
- Troylynn Brown, 34
- Dion Ridley, 22
- Jarvis Brown, 29.
All seven reside in New Orleans, where federal investigators say the conspiracy operated. All are charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count each of mail fraud.
If convicted, the mail fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, while the conspiracy charge carries a five-year sentence.
Two incidents are at the center of the indictment. The first occurred on June 8, 2016, when the Johnsons and McGowan are accused of conspiring with Damian Labeaud, Keishira Robinson and others to intentionally collide with a tractor-trailer in the area of Chickasaw Street and Louisa Street in New Orleans.
After the crash, prosecutors say those three defendants lied in depositions, falsely claiming that Robinson was driving the car when in fact Labeaud was driving and intentionally hit the tractor-trailer. The defendants also falsely claimed that McGowan was in the car at the time of the collision, even though she had been riding in the “spotter” or getaway car and entered the “slammer” car only after the collision occurred.
Labeaud and Robinson were previously charged and have both pleaded guilty to roles in the conspiracy. Labeaud was identified in the investigation as a “ringleader.”
The second incident occurred on June 28, 2017, and involved the Browns and Ridley. Each of these defendants was a passenger in a car that was intentionally crashed into a tractor-trailer on the corner of Calliope Street and Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans.
The driver of the car at the time was Roderick Hickman, another individual who was also previously charged and pleaded guilty to staging crashes. The indictment claims the defendants lied in depositions, falsely claiming that Allen was driving the car.
Labeaud and Hickman received payments for referring the defendants to attorneys who would handle their cases. Through the attorneys, the defendants secured settlements from the insurance companies who insured the commercial carriers.
Attorney’s guilty plea
In June, attorney Danny Patrick Keating Jr., 52, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud at a hearing in federal court in Louisiana. A personal injury lawyer, Keating admitted to paying a co-conspirator for 31 illegally staged crashes involving tractor-trailers, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Of those 31 crashes, 17 were settled out of court. Keating and his clients received approximately $1.5 million, of which Keating kept $358,000. The lawsuits filed on behalf of the 77 plaintiffs fraudulently alleged who was driving the vehicles, misrepresented who was at fault in the staged crashes, and falsely claimed injuries.
At least 40 people have been charged in connection with Operation Sideswipe. At least 25 have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. LL