New Orleans woman’s guilty plea brings ‘Operation Sideswipe’ convictions to 28

October 12, 2021

Land Line Staff

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A New Orleans woman has pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in a sweeping conspiracy to stage wrecks with commercial vehicles and defraud insurance companies.

Federal prosecutors say Aisha Thompson’s guilty plea brings the total number of defendants convicted in “Operation Sideswipe” to 28.

At least 40 people have been charged in connection with the Operation Sideswipe scheme, which federal authorities say involved an elaborate network of “spotters” and “slammers” who helped recruit individuals to deliberately crash into commercial motor vehicles and then sue for personal injury damages.

Thompson, 43, pleaded guilty in federal court on Oct. 6 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. According to the guilty plea, Thompson along with her co-defendants, Dewayne Coleman, Erica Lee Thompson, Donisha Lee, Donreion Lee and an unidentified passenger, conspired to commit mail fraud in connection with a staged crash occurring on Sept. 6, 2017.

Thompson falsely claimed that she was a passenger in co-defendant Erica Lee’s SUV when it intentionally crashed into a tractor-trailer owned by Averitt Express. Thompson was not in the vehicle, but the unidentified passenger used Thompson’s name as her own when giving a statement to police.

Thompson and the other codefendants sought out an attorney and made claims for damages, despite not being involved in the crash. The case was settled for $30,000. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, plus up to three years of supervised release and/or a fine of $250,000. A sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 16, 2022.

The driver of the SUV, Cornelius Garrison, was charged by federal prosecutors as a “ringleader” in the scheme, which has been linked to dozens of crashes in the New Orleans area. Less than a week after being identified as a “slammer” responsible for at least 50 crashes, Garrison was found shot to death in an apartment in the St. Bernard neighborhood of New Orleans. LL

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