The four defendants are Anthony Robinson, Audrey Harris, Jerry Schaffer and Keishira Robinson. They are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and two counts of mail fraud. The indictment charges the defendants and others with intentionally staging an automobile accident with a tractor-trailer in order to defraud trucking and insurance companies.
While this indictment involves one multi-million dollar accident, the indictment states that between 2015 and 2017 Labeaud and Co-conspirator A staged at least 100 accidents. In this case, the tractor-trailer was owned by C.R. England, a family-owned interstate commercial trucking company headquartered in Salt Lake City. The truck driver worked for C.R. England and resided in Michigan. C.R. England was self-insured for up to $1,000,000 per claim for vehicle accidents and Chubb, previously Ace American Insurance Company, provided the excess coverage, according to court documents.
GoAuto Insurance Company, a Louisiana domestic company, insured the 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe owned by Anthony Robinson that Co-conspirator A slammed into the tractor-trailer.
As discussed in the indictment, the passengers were referred to an attorney who paid Labeaud and Co-conspirator A to stage accidents. All of the defendants were treated by doctors and healthcare providers at the direction of their attorneys, and Anthony Robinson, Harris and Schaffer underwent surgeries. In total, the victim trucking and insurance companies paid out approximately $4.7 million for the fraudulent claims associated with this staged accident.
The Robinsons and Harris are related, according to the indictment.
Labeaud and Co-conspirator A worked as runners for Attorney A, whom we now know is Daniel Patrick Keating because of his indictment on Nov. 5. As runners Labeaud and Co-conspirator A referred persons involved in legitimate motor vehicle accidents to Keating who paid them $1,000 per passenger for accidents with tractor-trailers and $500 per passenger for vehicle accidents that did not involve tractor-trailers. While working together the two brought at least 20 accidents to Keating, according to the indictment.
Labeaud and Co-conspirator A also served as slammers and spotters in staged accidents and sometimes discussed the staging of accidents with Keating before the accidents happened, the indictment explains. Keating paid Labeaud and Co-conspirator A via cash or check for staged and legitimate accidents, and sometimes advanced them funds for staging accidents. In addition, Keating represented Labeaud and Co-conspirator A in accidents in which they were each involved.
Labeaud sometimes did work around Keating’s office as a way to conceal payments to him for staged accidents, according to the indictment.
In the staged accident that is the subject of this indictment, Co-conspirator A, while driving Anthony Robinson’s Tahoe southbound on Alvar Street near the intersection of France Road, observed a Freightliner semi tractor-trailer operated by C.R. England changing lanes from right to left and intentionally collided with the tractor-trailer. At that point, Co-conspirator A exited the Tahoe and Anthony Robinson got into the driver’s seat. Harris contacted the New Orleans Police Department and reported the accident.
According to the indictment, Anthony Robinson falsely reported that he was driving the Tahoe and that the tractor-trailer had struck his vehicle.
After NOPD departed, the four defendants rendezvoused at a gas station on Almonaster Street and Louisa Street and later met with Keating at his office entering the law office through a rear stair entrance.
On the day of the accident, Keating made two cash withdrawals from his personal law firm account, one for $2,000 and another for $1,300. Keating paid Labeaud $1,500 from his and Attorney B’s account the day after the accident, and Keating withdrew approximately $2,000 in cash the same day.
After getting the money from Keating, Labeaud paid Co-conspirator A in cash for the staged accident, the indictment says.
While this indictment does not identify Attorney B or Co-conspirator A, The Times Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported in September that court documents “strongly suggest” that Attorney B is Vanessa Motta and that Co-conspirator A is Motta’s fianc‚, Sean Alfortish, and that Alfortish paid a previously indicted individual to stage accidents and referred the resulting legal work to Motta. Alfortish once had an office in Kenner with an address that Motta listed as her workplace.
Motta’s attorney, Dane Ciolino, acknowledged to The Times Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate that federal investigators have spoken to his client about a previous staged accident case and that charging documents do refer to Motta as Attorney B. But, Ciolino maintains Motta’s innocence and noted that the court records stop short of referring to her as a co-conspirator.
According to news sources, the staged accident indictments came about three years after Alfortish finished serving 28 months in federal prison. He pled guilty to rigging an election for the presidency of a nonprofit association for horse racing pros and track workers and to misspending some of the group’s money as president. The guilty plea in that case cost Alfortish his law license.
According to this indictment, on or about Sept. 26, 2016, Attorney B filed a lawsuit in Orleans Civil District Court on behalf of Harris, Schaffer and Keishira Robinson seeking to recover damages from C.R. England, the truck driver, Anthony Robinson and GoAuto.
Approximately six months after the accident, Keating referred Anthony Robinson to Attorney C (unidentified) for representation, and Attorney C filed a cross-claim in Orleans Civil District Court on or about Oct. 3, 2016. The cross-claim sought to recover damages from C.R. England and the truck driver.
The Robinsons, Harris and Schaffer were treated by “known doctors and healthcare providers” at the direction of their attorneys, and they were given advances on their settlements by the three attorneys, court documents state.
Anthony Robinson underwent neck and back surgery; Harris underwent neck and back surgery, and Schaffer underwent back surgery.
The advances consisted of checks totaling about $3,000 for Anthony Robinson on or about Dec. 28, 2016, and March 2, 2017. Between March 2017 and June 2019 Anthony Robinson got about $32,700; Harris received about $4,600 between April 2017 and March 2019; Schaffer received about $11,650 between May 2017 and July 2019, and Keishira Robinson received $2,620 between May 2017 and July 2019.
On or about Aug. 21, 2017, Attorney B demanded approximately $4 million in settlement for Harris, approximately $1 million in settlement for Schaffer and approximately $175,000 in settlement for Keishira Robinson.
On or about Sept. 28, 2017, both Robinsons, Harris and Schaffer each provided false testimony in depositions taken in conjunction with the Harris lawsuit and the Robinson cross-claim. Nearly a year later, on or about Sept. 15, 2018, Attorney C, demanded approximately $4.8 million in settlement for Anthony Robinson.
The indictment lists the checks the defendants got from C.R. England and Chubb and how much they netted from the settlement checks.
In July and August 2019, the law firm of Keating and Attorney B issued checks to Keating’s personal law firm for attorney fees in the amount of $481,338.14. On or about Aug. 5, 2019, the law firm of Keating and Attorney B issued checks to Attorney B’s personal law firm in the amount of $233,865.78 for attorney fees related to this staged accident. Beginning on July 26, 2019, and continuing through Aug. 18, 2019, the law firm of Keating and Attorney B issued checks to other associates of their law firm for attorney fees totaling $235,164.35 for this staged accident. On or about July 26, 2019, Attorney C issued checks to the law firm of Keating and Attorney B totaling $135,386.64 for fees costs associated with representing Anthony Robinson in this staged accident.
All of which leaves $1,958,717 yet to be accounted for by the Reporter’s reckoning.
The prosecutors are seeking forfeiture from the defendants of $393,726.28 in U.S. currency, a 2018 Maserati Levante SUV, a 2014 Mercedes Benz E550, a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette and a 2016 Mercedes Benz CLA 250.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years for count 1 and 20 years for counts two and three. Upon their release from prison, each defendant can be placed on supervised release for up to five years and fined up to $250,000 per count.
Several days later, Keishira Robinson cashed a settlement check for $40,080.84 from the law firm of Keating and Attorney B. At approximately the same time, Harris deposited a settlement check for $675,000 from the law firm of Keating and Attorney B, and Schaffer deposited a check for $430,463.99 from the law firm of Keating and Attorney B. Anthony Robinson endorsed a settlement check for $534,983.33 from Attorney C’s law firm, of which he deposited approximately $524,983.33 and withheld $10,000 cash. Altogether, the four defendants’ take amounted to $1,680,528.10, or 35.6 percent of the $4,725,000 settlement proceeds.