Marrero man pleads guilty to conspiring to stage automobile accidents to defraud insurance and trucking companies

Published 6:21 am Thursday, August 12, 2021

NEW ORLEANS – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced today that Dewayne Coleman (“Coleman”), age 22, of Marrero, Louisiana, entered a plea of guilty today to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, arising out of staged automobile accidents with tractor-trailers occurring in New Orleans.

According to today’s guilty plea, Coleman, along with his co-defendants, Erica Lee Thompson (“Erica Lee”), Donisha Lee, Donreion Lee, and Aisha Thompson, conspired to commit mail fraud in connection with a staged accident with Cornelius Garrison, occurring on September 6, 2017.  Today’s guilty plea brings the total number of defendants convicted in “Operation Sideswipe” to twenty-seven (27).

Coleman admitted that on September 6, 2017, on the I-10 near the Almonaster exit, he was a passenger in co-defendant Erica Lee’s 2015 RAV4 being driven by their former co-defendant, when he intentionally crashed into a tractor-trailer owned by Averitt Express.  After the staged accident, the driver exited the RAV4 and told Erica Lee to get behind the wheel of the RAV4 to make it appear that Erica Lee was driving the vehicle at the time of the staged accident.  The defendants contacted the NOPD and falsely claimed that Erica Lee was the driver at the time of the collision.  Coleman retained counsel and made a claim for damages. The total settlement for the Averitt accident was $30,000.

On March 26, 2019, Coleman, Donisha Lee, and Donreion Lee each provided false testimony in depositions taken in conjunction with the Thompson Lawsuit.  On April 9, 2019, Aisha Thompson provided false testimony in a deposition taken in conjunction with the Thompson Lawsuit.  In these depositions, Coleman, Donisha Lee, Donreion Lee, and Aisha Thompson lied about the September 6, 2017 accident including, but not limited to, who was driving the RAV4 and the extent of their injuries.

Coleman faces a maximum sentence of five (5) years of incarceration. Upon release from prison, Coleman also faces a term of supervised release up to (3) three years, and/or a fine of $250,000 or the greater of twice the gross gain to the defendant or twice the gross loss to any person under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3571, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee. Sentencing in this matter is scheduled for January 5, 2022, before United States District Judge Sarah S. Vance.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office would also like to acknowledge the assistance 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 Edward J. Rivera; Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh; Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Long.