NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — A New Orleans couple have been sentenced to four years in prison for staging a 2015 car accident in an attempt to commit fraud.
On Wednesday, Anthony Robinson, 67, and his wife Audrey Harris, 54, both of New Orleans, were sentenced to four years in prison for participating in a plan to defraud a trucking company and their insurance company by staging an accident with a tractor-trailer.
The Staged Accident
The event stems back to October 2015 when Robinson paid Damien Lebeaud $2,000 to participate in the staged accident. From there, Robinson planned for Harris, along with their daughter, Keishira, and his friend, Jerry Schaffer to go for a ride in Robinson’s vehicle. Prior to the accident, Robinson pulled over, exited his car, and allowed Roderick Hickman to take the wheel and intentionally collide with a tractor-trailer in the area of Alvar Street and France Road in New Orleans.
Court documents indicate that Hickman acted as the “slammer” in the accident, while Labeaud acted as the “spotter.” After Hickman caused the collision, Hickman exited the vehicle and was picked up from the accident site by Labeaud. Both have since plead guilty to their roles in the scheme.
After the collision, Robinson (who had been waiting in Labeaud’s vehicle) then got behind the wheel of his own vehicle to make it appear that he had been driving at the time of the accident.
The Events Following
In the events following the staged collision, the couple, their daughter, and Schaffer were referred to an attorney who paid Labeaud and Hickman to stage accidents. From there, Robinson and Harris underwent extensive medical treatment, which included chiropractor visits, injections, and eventually both neck and back surgeries.
The couple understood that agreeing to further medical treatment would increase their lawsuit value. Their attorneys filed fraudulent civil lawsuits on behalf of the family and Schaffer, who all provided false testimonies in depositions taken in concurrence with the lawsuit.
As a result of the lawsuit, the trucking and insurance company paid out a total of $4.7 million for the claims, including:
- $1.5 million from the trucking company for Robinson’s claim
- Robinson received nearly $535,000 of that total amount, plus about $35,700 in loans or advances on his settlement from the law firms representing him
- $2.1 million from the trucking company’s insurer for Harris’ claim
- Harris received roughly $675,000 of that amount, plus approximately $14,600.00 in loans or advances on her settlement from the law firm representing her
Charges and Sentencing
Robinson and Harris were both charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and were sentenced to the following:
- Both were sentenced to four years in prison
- Both were sentenced to three years of supervised release
- Both must pay a $100 special assessment fee
- The couple and their co-conspirators were ordered to be held jointly and severally liable for restitution in the amount of nearly $5.1 million
- The restitution amount includes the total settlement paid by the trucking company and its insurer plus attorney fees
- Additionally, the judge entered a preliminary order of forfeiture ordering the unlawfully-obtained proceeds by the couple to the government
Schaffer was previously sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the scheme, while Keishira Robinson has previously pled guilty for her role in the accident.