(July 2021) -  A New Orleans personal injury attorney was indicted by a grand jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on November 5, 2020 for wire and mail fraud based on his alleged role in filing lawsuits and obtaining settlements relating to staged accidents. In the indictment, the grand jury charged that the attorney conspired with a "slammer" and a "spotter" to stage at least 31 accidents. The indictment contains specifics about five accidents that occurred in May and June of 2017.

According to the indictment, the attorney agreed to pay the chief slammer and spotter $1,000 per passenger for accidents with tractor-trailers, and $500 per passenger for accidents that did not involve tractor trailers, and the two discussed changing the locations of the accidents and varying the number of passengers. The slammer and spotter were to avoid cameras and talking to the police. In addition, it was alleged that the attorney made loans to the clients, advised them to give false testimony in the lawsuits, and referred them to certain medical providers for treatment. In doing so, the attorney allegedly advised his clients that they would receive more money in settlement if they received medical treatment including surgeries. The scheme allegedly involved 77 plaintiffs out of the 31 accidents. Settlements were reached in 17 of the accidents for approximately $1.5 million, resulting in approximately $358,000 in attorney fees.

The attorney, Daniel Patrick Keating, Jr. entered a guilty plea at the plea hearing held before Chief Judge Nanette Jolivette Brown on June 17, 2021. The spotter in this case was separately sentenced to 21 months in prison this January, after pleading guilty. The slammer and other participants have also pleaded guilty in separate cases.

A total of 33 individuals have been indicted in the district for similar or related schemes; one of them was shot to death in his home shortly after his indictment. It was reported locally that he was believed to be cooperating with federal investigators. A New Orleans couple who staged an accident with a tractor trailer were sentenced on June 30, 2021 to four years in prison and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle. In addition, the couple and their co-conspirators were ordered to pay more than $5 million in restitution, which includes forfeiture of the settlement amounts and attorneys' fees incurred by the trucking company.

At least two motor-carriers have filed RICO lawsuits against law firms in Louisiana in connection with these stated accident schemes. Carriers and their drivers should remain on the lookout for any suspicious activity immediately after accidents involving the changing position or departure of occupants of vehicles that strike their trucks. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor this ongoing situation, as well as be on the lookout for any client matters that may involve these players, particularly the lawyers and healthcare providers involved.

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