When Damien Labeaud was hired by accused New Orleans attorney Danny Keating in 2017, he was serving as a “runner” and portions of the job were allegedly intended for legitimate purposes.
Keating became the first lawyer to be charged with postal fraud in the Louisiana-staged accident plan last week. Based on the details of the indictment announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Keating’s legitimate use of Labeaud to find new business became a far more active and illegitimate business, staging accidents and attempting settlements to get companies and their insurers out of truck traffic.
The indictment also helps bring home the point that there are many other lawyers that U.S. attorney Peter Strasser knows about and that he presumably has on his radar for further indictments. The earlier charges against the people actually in the cars that orchestrated the truck (and in at least one case, a bus) accidents included frequent references to lawyers A, B, C and D. The indictment against Keating does not refer to D, but it does refer to the first three. It also refers to several co-conspirators.
The indictment states that attorneys A, B, and C all work for the same personal injury law firm in New Orleans. This company was not affiliated with Keating.
And while 31 people were charged in the case, including Keating, many more could come. The prosecution also identified seven other Keating clients in a letter.
Based on the prosecution, it appears that A, B and C were already involved in the staging of accidents when Lebeaud started working for what the prosecution calls a runner, Keating. A runner’s job was “to refer people involved in legitimate and staged motor vehicle accidents to Keating for money,” the indictment stated. Bring someone involved in a trailer truck accident and Lebeaud would receive $ 1,000. If it wasn’t for an 18-wheeler, it would be $ 500.
“At the beginning of Keating and Labeaud’s arrangement, Keating was unaware that Labeaud was staging accidents,” the charges read. As the relationship between the two men developed, Keating realized that Labeaud was deliberately orchestrating car accidents and referred these potential plaintiffs to Keating.
Labeaud, who pleaded guilty to having sent fraud allegations and works with Strasser’s office, was paid for 31 different staged tractor-trailer accidents. The indictment lists the many haulage companies that were victims of the staged accidents. Some have been identified in previous charges, but others have not. Some are prominent, like Southern Refrigerated Transport, a unit of Covenant Transportation. Others are tiny, like Stevie B.’s Trucking of Harvey, Louisiana. At least one of them, Southeastern Motor Freight, has already stood up to Keating by filing a RICO lawsuit against him.
The rest of the indictment is unremarkable and describes the process by which the staged accidents occurred, all of which were set out in the previous indictments. A group of people is assembled, a target truck is identified, the collision is carried out and the lawsuits begin. As reported in the press release announcing the charges against Keating, Keating and the 77 clients who emerged from the 31 accidents received about $ 1.5 million from various settlements, and Keating kept about $ 1.5 million $ 358,000 in legal fees.
A story on the website of the New Orleans TV station WWLT by Mike Perlstein, who has been reporting on the staged accident scandal for months, quoted Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC) with the other lawyers who were involved in the planning of the staged accidents “The longer you wait to get in, the harder it will be for you. There is no going back and this investigation is far from over. “
The MCC is a Louisiana nonprofit group that describes itself as a “privately funded civic organization dedicated to exposing public corruption and improving the administration of justice.”
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