Louisiana staged truck accident case back in court; 2 more plead guilty

Remember the Louisiana staged accident scam and investigation? It’s kicking into gear again.

After months of no news regarding indictments, guilty pleas or sentencings, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana announced this week two recent guilty pleas.

But neither were for what is still expected to be the most significant parts of the case: the indictments of more lawyers who were allegedly involved in putting the scheme together. 

In two separate but similar developments this week, the U.S. attorney’s office announced two guilty pleas in connection with the plot to obtain insurance payments by staging collisions with trucks in and around New Orleans. (In one case, a passenger bus was struck.)

In one case, Florence Randle pleaded guilty late last month to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. As a result of her plea, four other counts of mail fraud were dismissed. 

In the second case, Joseph Brewton also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Five counts of mail fraud pending against Brewton were dismissed as part of the guilty plea. 

All the charges against the now 43 individuals who have been charged in what the U.S. attorney has called “Operation Sideswipe” have faced mail fraud-related charges. 

Both Brewton and Randle face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and supervised release of up to three years, though no defendants have received that much time in jail. A husband-and-wife team who were heavily involved in the planning of the staged collisions each received four years in jail last year for the longest sentence handed down. Some have walked away with just probation.

Randle’s guilty plea shows the wide age sweep of the participants who either helped stage the accidents or rode in the cars that were set up to be struck. There have been guilty pleas from individuals not much older than 20. Randle, by contrast, is 70. (Brewton is 56.)

The two guilty pleas announced by the U.S. attorney’s office are believed to be the first public developments since July. 

But all of the sentences and guilty pleas from this year have involved individuals who were in the cars that struck the trucks or who planned the collisions. The number of charges and guilty pleas directed at attorneys who were also involved in the planning and the subsequent fraudulent litigation that followed the accidents remains at one: Danny Keating, who pleaded guilty in June 2021 and has not been sentenced.

Documents in the various court proceedings identified at least five other attorneys involved in the planning, identified only as Attorney A running through Attorney E. 

There also have been no charges against medical personnel that the documents suggest may have performed unnecessary procedures to help boost the amount of money the participants in the cars struck by trucks could claim against the carriers and their insurers.

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