Five people have been indicted on federal charges related to an alleged plot to defraud insurance and trucking companies by faking an accident with a commercial truck. It is alleged that Damian Labeaud, of New Orleans, Louisiana was the leader of the scheme, and was assisted by four co-defendants. They claim that Judy Williams, Dashontae Young, Lucinda Thomas and Mary Wade had driven from Houma, Louisiana to meet with Labeaud at a fast-food restaurant on June 6, 2017 “with the purpose of staging an automobile accident in order to obtain money through fraud.”

Authorities are claiming that Labeaud arranged to intentionally crash a 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche owned by Thomas into a tractor-trailer owned by an Arkansas trucking company. After the collision, Labeaud is said to have quickly exited the vehicle to switch seats with Thomas, so it would appear she had been driving at the time of the crash.

“Thomas, Wade, Williams, and Young contacted the New Orleans Police Department (“NOPD”) and falsely reported that Thomas had been the driver of the Avalanche and that the tractor-trailer had struck her vehicle,” says the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Louisiana, in a press release related to the indictment. “Labeaud then returned to the scene and also made false statements to the NOPD that he had witnessed the accident and that the driver of the tractor-trailer had been at fault.” Labeaud was reportedly a plaintiff in several earlier collisions with trucks. He was arrested by FBI special agents Thursday, and his four co-defendants were ordered to appear for arraignment.

The federally indicted defendants are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five counts of wire fraud. The conspiracy charge carries a possible jail term of five years, and the wire fraud charges are punishable by up to 20 years behind bars. Additionally, they could be given five years of supervised release and the possibility of being fined up to $250,000 per count after release from prison. A court date has not yet been announced.

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