‘Operation Sideswipe’: C.R. England files RICO suit to recoup $4.7M payout in staged crash scheme

February 12, 2021

Greg Grisolano

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Another motor carrier is filing a racketeering lawsuit against a group of individuals caught up in a federal probe of staged crashes involving tractor-trailers in and around New Orleans.

Salt Lake City-based C.R. England filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO, civil lawsuit, alleging a New Orleans based attorney conspired with other individuals to profit from a fraudulent settlement involving a phony crash with one of the company’s tractors, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The lawsuit specifically refers to an Oct. 13, 2015, crash, which was settled for more than $4.7 million. The lawsuit also references multiple staged crashes that occurred at the same intersection on Highway 90 in New Orleans. Attorneys for C.R. England claim the company was the victim of a racketeering enterprise led by the defendants and is seeking a jury trial and damages in the form of the money the company lost as a result of the scheme plus legal expenses.

The lawsuit names attorney Jason Giles, the King Law Firm and Giles Law LLC as well as Damian Labeaud, Roderick Hickman, Anthony Robinson, Audrey Harris, Jerry Schaffer and Keishira Robinson as defendants. Giles is the second attorney to be named in a RICO lawsuit stemming from the Justice Department’s “Operation Sideswipe” – a sweeping probe of more than 150 staged wrecks in and around the New Orleans area, which federal prosecutors claim were part of an elaborate conspiracy to bilk commercial motor carriers out of insurance payments.

Giles has not been charged in connection with the criminal conspiracy.

Another New Orleans personal injury attorney – Danny Patrick Keating, Jr. – has been indicted in connection with the criminal probe. Keating is also a named defendant in a separate RICO lawsuit filed on behalf of Southeastern Motor Freight Inc., a Jefferson, La.-based carrier. That RICO suit seeks to recoup damages and attorney fees paid out in settling personal injury litigation filed as a result of 2017 crash which the company claims was staged.

All of the other individual defendants in the C.R. England RICO lawsuit have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the criminal conspiracy probe. Anthony Robinson, Keishira Robinson, Harris and Schaffer all pleaded guilty to one count each of mail fraud in December 2020. Those four each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

According to plea agreements, Hickman who pleaded guilty to a previous indictment charging him and 10 others with staging automobile crashes, was driving Anthony Robinson’s vehicle on October 13, 2015. Hickman intentionally struck a tractor-trailer owned and operated by C.R. England near the intersection and then was picked up from the collision site by Damian Labeaud. Labeaud has also pleaded guilty to a previous indictment which named him as one of the organizers of the conspiracy.

The civil lawsuit states that at approximately 6:18 p.m. on October 13, 2015, while driving southbound on Alvar Street near the intersection of France Road, Hickman “observed the 2016 Freightliner semi tractor-trailer operated by C.R. England changing lanes from right to left, and that Mr. Hickman intentionally collided with the C.R. England tractor-trailer.”

After the crash, Anthony Robinson, exited Labeaud’s vehicle and got behind the wheel of his own to make it appear that he had been driving at the time of the staged crash.

He also falsely reported to the New Orleans Police Department that he had been driving and that the tractor-trailer had struck his vehicle.

According to documents filed in federal court, all four defendants were referred to an attorney who paid Labeaud for staging this crash, among others. All of the defendants were treated by doctors and healthcare providers at the direction of their attorneys, and three of them underwent surgeries. In total, in July 2019, the victim trucking and insurance company paid out approximately $4.7 million for the fraudulent claims associated with this staged crash.

At least 33 individuals have been charged so far and 15 have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the criminal conspiracy. LL

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Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.