CCJ Daily Dispatch, Dec. 21: Four more plead guilty in Louisiana staged accident fraud scheme

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Updated Dec 22, 2020

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Dec. 21, 2020:

Four more plead guilty in staged accident fraud scheme near New Orleans
U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced four individuals entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for their involvement in a staged crash scheme against truck drivers, fleets and insurance companies. The particular crash for the four individuals occurred on Oct. 13, 2015.

According to the guilty plea, Anthony Robinson, Audrey Harris, Jerry Schaffer and Keishira Robinson intentionally collided with a tractor-trailer in the area of Alvar Street and France Road in New Orleans.

Roderick Hickman, who pled guilty previously, was driving the vehicle and allegedly intentionally struck a C.R. England-owned truck. He was then picked up from the collision site by Damian Labeaud, who also previously pled guilty. After the accident, Anthony Robinson, who had been in Labeaud’s vehicle, then got behind the wheel of the crashed car to make it look like he had been driving at the time of the crash. He then falsely reported to the New Orleans Police Department that he had been driving and the tractor-trailer struck his car.

According to court documents, all four defendants were referred to an attorney who paid Labeaud for staging this accident and others. All defendants were treated by doctors at the discretion of their attorneys, and Anothony Robinson, Harris and Schaffer underwent surgeries.

In total, in July 2019, the victim trucking and insurance company paid out approximately $4.7 million for fraudulent claims associated with the staged crash, the U.S. attorney says.

Top 250 fleet increasing driver pay
Crete Carrier and Shaffer Trucking (CCJ Top 250, No. 29) announced its drivers will receive their third pay increase in the last three months, which brings starting pay on national fleets to 54-60 cents per practical mile.

Since Oct. 1, drivers on the national OTR fleet have seen their per-mile pay grow by about 10%, the company says. Miles for drivers also increased in 2020, and that trend is expected to continue in 2021.

Crete and Shaffer pay by practical miles, which on average increases a driver’s miles by 3% to 5% compared to companies paying by short route miles, the company notes.

Leonard’s Express announces COVID bonus
Leonard’s Express (No. 154) is implementing COVID bonus pay to drivers with an extra 3 cents per mile from Nov. 30 through April 2. At that time, the pandemic environment will be reviewed again, the company says.

Additionally, drivers who worked throughout the pandemic so far have received a lump sum for their efforts.

“Our drivers are the heart and soul of our company,” said Ken Johnson, CEO. “They have been the ones working hard to ensure our customer’s product is delivered so that the store shelves stayed full. Our drivers never questioned their role and just quietly got the job done. We felt it was important to recognize the sacrifices they made and continue to make with an increase in their paycheck. They are not only essential to the supply chain but also heroes in or eyes”