NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced today the August 26, 2021 Indictment of ASHLEY McGOWAN (“McGOWAN”), age 35; LERTRICE JOHNSON (“L. JOHNSON”), age 45; DAVIENQUE JOHNSON (“D. JOHNSON”), age 27; HERBERT ALLEN (“ALLEN”), age 36, TROYLYNN BROWN (“T. BROWN”), age 34; DION RIDLEY (“RIDLEY”), age 22; and JARVIS BROWN (“J. BROWN”), age 29, of New Orleans, Louisiana. These seven defendants were charged in a four-count federal indictment. All of the defendants were charged in count one (1) with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. McGOWAN, L. JOHNSON, and D. JOHNSON were charged in count two (2) with Mail Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2. ALLEN, T. BROWN, RIDLEY, and J. BROWN were charged in counts three (3) and four (4) with Mail Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five (5) years for Count 1 and twenty (20) years as to Counts 2-4. Upon their release from prison, each defendant can be placed on a term of supervised release for up to five (5) years and fined up to $250,000.00 per count. The defendants must pay a mandatory $100 special assessment cost for each count of conviction. Today’s Indictment brings the total of defendants charged in this federal probe into the staging of accidents with tractor-trailers to 40.
The Indictment charges these defendants with conspiring among themselves and with others to stage automobile accidents with tractor-trailers in order to defraud trucking and insurance companies. Two incidents are at the center of this Indictment. The first occurred on June 8, 2016, when McGOWAN, L. JOHNSON, and D. JOHNSON conspired with Damien Labeaud (“Labeaud”), Keishira Robinson (“K. Robinson”), and others to intentionally collide with a tractor-trailer in the area of Chickasaw Street and Louisa Street in New Orleans. After the intentional collision, McGOWAN, L. JOHNSON, and D. JOHNSON lied in depositions, falsely claiming that K. Robinson was driving the car that collided with the tractor-trailer, when in fact Labeaud was driving the car and intentionally hit the tractor-trailer. The defendants also falsely claimed that McGOWAN was in the car at the time of the collision, even though she had been riding in the “spotter” or getaway car and entered the “slammer” car only after the collision occurred. For their part, Labeaud and K. Robinson have been charged in previous indictments and pleaded guilty to their role in the staged automobile accident scheme.
The second intentional collision occurred on June 28, 2017, and involved defendants ALLEN, T. BROWN, RIDLEY, and J. BROWN. Each of these defendants was a passenger in a car that intentionally collided with a tractor-trailer on the corner of Calliope Street and Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans. The driver of the car at the time was Roderick Hickman (“Hickman”), another individual who was previously charged and has pleaded guilty to staging automobile accidents. Each of the four defendants lied in depositions, falsely claiming that ALLEN was driving the car, when in fact Hickman was driving the car that intentionally hit the tractor-trailer. Labeaud drove the getaway car and picked up Hickman after the collision occurred.
As discussed in the Indictment, Labeaud and Hickman received payments for referring the defendants to attorneys who would handle their cases. The defendants were treated by doctors and healthcare providers at the direction of their attorneys. Furthermore, through their attorneys, the defendants secured settlements from the insurance companies who insured the commercial carriers.
The defendants will be required to appear before a United States Magistrate Judge for an initial appearance and arraignment on this Indictment.
U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that the Indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office would 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 Brandon S. Long; Brian M. Klebba, Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit; Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria M. Carboni; Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Rivera; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh.
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