NEW ORLEANS — Four more defendants pleaded guilty Thursday in the massive staged accident fraud case involving insurance fraud from staged accidents with 18-wheelers, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced.
The sprawling investigation has now netted 15 guilty pleas out of 33 defendants. The four defendants who pleaded guilty Thursday confessed to packing into a car Oct. 13, 2015 driven by previously convicted co-defendant Roderick Hickman.
Hickman intentionally sideswiped a tractor trailer in eastern New Orleans, authorities said, before jumping out of the car and letting Anthony Robinson, 67, get behind the wheel to masquerade as the driver when police arrived to handle the accident scene.
Robinson, 67, Audrey Harris, 53, Jerry Schaffer, 66, and Keishera Robinson, 26, all of New Orleans, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The four shared in settlements from fraudulent lawsuits that amounted to about $4.7 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Hickman, along with convicted co-defendant Damian Labeaud, were both involved in the 2015 accident as “slammers,” the term for organizers who work closely with attorneys before and after they get behind the wheel to intentionally cause accidents.
Among those indicted last month was accident attorney Daniel Patrick Keating, who was identified as a target more than a year ago in WWL-TV’s yearlong investigative series “Highway Robbery.” Keating, who gave up his law license upon being indicted, has been cooperating with the feds, multiple source say.
Three of the defendants who pleaded guilty Thursday – Anthony Robinson, Harris and Schaffer – underwent surgeries at the direction of their attorneys, authorities said. All four defendants face up to five years in prison.
The case has been a top priority for the local FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office since the scam surfaced more than a year ago.
The fraud is costly to anyone who has car insurance by driving up rates. State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon calculated that the scam adds $600 a year to the insurance costs of every Louisiana policy-holder.