Husband and wife sentenced to 4 years for staged automobile accident resulting in $4.7 million settlement

Published 7:35 am Thursday, July 1, 2021

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NEW ORLEANS – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that Anthony Robinson (“A. Robinson”), age 67, and Audrey Harris (“Harris”), age 54, of New Orleans, were sentenced today for participating in a scheme to defraud a trucking company and their insurer by staging an automobile accident with a tractor-trailer on October 13, 2015. U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle sentenced A. Robinson and Harris each to 48 months in prison.

According to documents filed in Federal Court, A. Robinson admitted to paying Damien Labeaud (“Labeaud”) $2,000 in cash to participate in a staged accident on October 13, 2015. A. Robinson arranged for his wife, Harris, his daughter, Keishira Robinson (“K. Robinson”), and his friend and neighbor, Jerry Schaffer (“Schaffer”), to go for a ride in A. Robinson’s vehicle.  Prior to the accident, A. Robinson pulled over, exited his vehicle, and allowed Roderick Hickman (“Hickman”) to take the driver’s seat and intentionally collide with a tractor-trailer in the area of Alvar Street and France Road in New Orleans. Hickman, who previously tendered a guilty plea, acted as the “slammer” in this staged accident. After causing the collision, Hickman exited the vehicle and was picked up from the accident site by Labeaud, who  acted as the “spotter” and who also previously pled guilty to his role in the larger scheme. A. Robinson, who had been in Labeaud’s vehicle during the intentional collision, then got behind the wheel of his own vehicle to make it appear that he had been driving at the time of the staged accident.

After the accident, A. Robinson, Harris, K. Robinson, and Schaffer were referred to an attorney who paid Labeaud and Hickman to stage accidents. Attorneys then referred A. Robinson and Harris to medical providers for treatment, and A. Robinson and Harris both underwent extensive medical treatment, including chiropractor treatment, injections, and eventually both neck and back surgeries. A. Robinson and Harris understood that agreeing to more medical treatment would increase the value of their lawsuit. Attorneys filed fraudulent civil lawsuits on behalf of A. Robinson, Harris, Schaffer, and K. Robinson, and they all provided false testimony in depositions taken in conjunction with the lawsuit.

As a result of the lawsuit, the victim trucking and insurance company paid out a total of approximately $4.7 million for the fraudulent claims associated with this staged accident. Specifically, the victim trucking company and its excess insurer paid out approximately $1,500,000 for A. Robinson’s claim. A. Robinson received approximately $534,983.33 of that total amount, in addition to approximately $35,700 in loans or advances on his settlement from the law firms representing him. The trucking company’s insurer paid out approximately $2,100,000 for Harris’s claim. Harris received approximately $675,000 of that total amount, in addition to approximately $14,600 in loans or advances on her settlement from the law firm representing her.

Judge Lemelle sentenced the defendants for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, A. Robinson was sentenced to 48 months and Harris was sentenced to 48 months. Judge Lemelle also sentenced A. Robinson and Harris each to three years of supervised release. Additionally, both Robinson and Harris must pay a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. Regarding restitution, Judge Lemelle ordered that A. Robinson, Harris and their co-conspirators be held jointly and severally liable for restitution in the total amount of $5,073,358.25. The restitution amount includes the total settlement paid by the victim trucking company and their excess insurer, as well as attorneys’ fees incurred by the trucking company in the course of defending against the fraudulent civil lawsuit stemming from the staged accident. Additionally, Judge Lemelle entered a preliminary order of forfeiture ordering the unlawfully-obtained proceeds by A. Robinson and Harris from the fraud scheme to be forfeited to the Government.

Judge Lemelle previously sentenced Schaffer to 30 months in prison for his role in this accident and Keishira Robinson has previously pled guilty before Judge Lemelle for her role in this accident.

U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police, and the Metropolitan Crime Commission with this matter. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit; Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh; Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria M. Carboni; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward J. Rivera. Assistant U.S Attorney Alexandra Giavotella and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andre J. Lagarde handled the forfeiture aspects of the case.