New Orleans staged truck accident scheme racks up 2 more guilty pleas

The guilty pleas continue to pile up in the Louisiana staged accident scheme, with two more reported by the U.S. attorney’s office in New Orleans on Thursday.

Both defendants pleaded guilty in connection with a staged accident on June 8, 2016. The collision took place in New Orleans.

Davienque Johnson, 28, and her mother, Lertrice Johnson, 45, both pleaded guilty to one count of violating federal mail fraud law. Every indictment and every guilty plea in the staged accident prosecution so far has been on charges related to mail fraud.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Louisiana is in charge of the investigation. There are now 35 guilty pleas against an indictment count of 47. 

Ashley McGowan, who recently pleaded guilty, was in the same staged accident as the Johnsons, according to the document. As a result, details of the collision have mostly been reported: the planning among the defendants to find a target, the intentional striking of a truck driven by Transportation Consultants Inc. (“a flatbed truck that was loaded with slabs of granite”), the switching of drivers and passengers, with the actual driver, Damian Labeaud, exiting the scene and being replaced by Davienque Johnson and McGowan who had been trailing in another vehicle, with a passenger in Labeaud’s vehicle sliding into the driver’s seat. 

How Labeaud struck the truck is straightforward: “Labeaud accelerated toward the TCI tractor-trailer and caused minimal impact between the front passenger side of the Mazda and the rear driver-side of the tractor-trailer,” the document said.

Labeaud, who pleaded guilty in August 2020, was a ringleader of the scheme and was the driver in several of the collisions, fleeing the scene and replacing his presence in the vehicle with other persons.

The guilty plea report adds to the extensive amount of detail regarding what the attorneys involved in the case required of the staged accident participants. 

The Johnsons and McGowan, according to the document, “were pressured by Attorney B to undergo frequent doctor visits and invasive medical treatments in order to increase the value of their lawsuit, drive up their financial payouts and increase the payouts to Attorney B and the law firm of Attorneys A and B,” the document says. 

Only one attorney, Danny Keating, has been indicted in connection with the scheme. He has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month. The identities of other attorneys who are listed as A, B, C, D and E in the various documents have not been revealed.

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