NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans attorney and two con artists who recently pleaded guilty in a series of “staged” accidents in order to rip-off insurance companies through fraudulent lawsuits have been hit with a federal racketeering civil lawsuit.
The RICO lawsuit names accident attorney Daniel Patrick Keating along with two men – Damian Labeaud and Mario Solomon – who recently confessed to being orchestrators of the accidents, in which people with packed cars intentionally sideswipe 18-wheelers in order to collect money for exaggerated or non-existent injuries.
WWL-TV’s investigative series “Highway Robbery” previously identified Keating as the lawyer listed as “Attorney A” in the federal indictment charging Labeaud, Solomon and six other defendants. The indictment spells out how Keating coordinated with the defendant before and after accidents, “paying Labeaud up to $1,000 per passenger for staged and legitimate accidents with tractor-trailers.”
While Keating has not been indicted, the RICO lawsuit could be a precursor to criminal legal action against him, multiple sources told WWL-TV. Neither Keating or his criminal defense attorney, Brian Capitelli, returned calls for comment.
The 58-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in New Orleans, spells out how Keating allegedly conspired with Labeaud and Solomon in two staged accidents one week apart in June 2017. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Southeastern Motor Freight, Inc. of Jefferson Parish, one of the largest trucking companies in the state.
Filing a civil lawsuit under the RICO statute allows plaintiffs to sue for damages if they can prove they were victims of a criminal conspiracy. Unlike ordinary lawsuits which must specify narrow reasons to collect damages, RICO lawsuits allow plaintiffs to ask for triple damages.
The lawsuit closely tracks the indictment which charges Labeaud and Solomon, as well as their signed confessions contained in a court document known as a “factual basis.”
“Defendant D. Patrick Keating established, financed, owned, operated and/or participated in the management of law offices presenting the fraudulent claims at issue,” the lawsuit states.
“This includes…conspiring with and paying Damian Labeaud to recruit individuals to knowingly participate in a scheme to stage at least 40 automobile accidents in the New Orleans area in an effort to defraud insurance and trucking companies,” wrote attorney Doug Williams, who is representing the trucking company.
In addition to Labeaud and Solomon, five other defendants in the original federal indictment have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with federal authorities. A second indictment charged 11 additional defendants as participants in accident scams, including another ringleader, Roderick Hickman of Baton Rouge.
The 30-page indictment, filed Aug. 21, sent shock waves through the New Orleans legal community by referring to Attorneys A, B, C, D and E as working closely with the defendants. The indictment spells out how attorneys initially used “runners” to bring them accident clients for a fees ranging from $500 to $1,000, but later began participating in the fraudulently staged wrecks.
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said this type of accident fraud adds $600 a year per family in car insurance costs in the state. Donelon said he is hopeful that the growing federal investigation will help lead to lower insurance premiums across the board.