Daniel Patrick Keating becomes the first defendant in the case highlighted by Mike Perlstein in his investigative series “Highway Robbery”.
NEW ORLEANS – After 32 defendants were charged as street-level fraudsters last year, the widespread federal investigation into staged trucking accidents has led to their first criminal indictment against a lawyer.
New Orleans attorney Daniel Patrick Keating, 51, faces a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
“What we have charged today is fraud,” said US Attorney Peter Strasser on Thursday at a press conference to announce the indictment. “I have a word for you: it is insolent.”
Keating, a longtime personal injury attorney, was charged in connection with four specific staged accidents between March and June 2017. Strasser said Keating has agreed to give up his lawyer license effective immediately.
Overall, Keating is alleged to have worked with convicted felon Damian Labeaud on at least 31 man-made accidents that resulted in about $ 1.5 million in spotty litigation comparisons. Labeaud previously pleaded guilty to organizing the man-made accidents and reportedly cooperating with the authorities.
Authorities say the scam consists of packing people in a car, deliberately running over an 18-wheeler, and then claiming injuries in a lawsuit that is usually settled by insurance companies.
“Like all lawyers, Mr. Keating has taken an oath to uphold the United States Constitution and the laws of the state of Louisiana,” said local FBI chief Bryan Vorndran. “But instead he chose to violate these laws and his oath.”
Of 32 defendants who have so far been indicted in the investigation, 11 have pleaded guilty and are believed to be cooperating with the authorities. As the case progressed, several other attorneys were linked with similar aliases in previous indictments and court documents.
The scam is costly to anyone with auto insurance by driving up prices. State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon calculated that fraud adds $ 600 a year to every policyholder’s insurance costs in Louisiana.
“Every citizen of this country who has insurance is affected by these systems,” said Vorndran.
Thursday’s indictment stated that Keating and his clients were paid approximately $ 1.5 million in these fraudulent accidents, with Keating withholding approximately $ 358,000 in legal fees. Strasser said Labeaud alone paid thousands of dollars from Keating in at least 31 staged accidents.
Aside from Labeaud and a few other accident organizers who worked directly with attorneys, most of the defendants are subordinate actors who were passengers in the accidents and who subsequently filed injury lawsuits. According to federal agencies, some of the defendants were paid in severance payments for phantom or exaggerated injuries.
To make the case even more urgent, a defendant described as a “slammer” and organizer was murdered at his Gentilly home on September 22, four days after he was named in a previously staged accident indictment.
Cornelius Garrison had worked clandestinely with the FBI, multiple sources said, and that agency admitted that it is now helping NOPD homicide investigators identify the killer.
Other lawyers have been involved in previous charges.
While Keating was previously unmasked in the WWL TV investigation series “Highway Robbery” as the person referred to in court documents as “Attorney A”, the federal prosecutor listed the attorneys B to E as links to other fraudsters.
“The lawyers who are doing this? The longer they wait to come in, the harder it gets for them, ”said Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “So they are on the trail now. And there is no going back and this investigation is far from over. “
RELATED: Highway Heist: This Scam Costs You $ 600 a Year in Louisiana Year
RELATED: Feds Make Three More Admissions of Guilt in Staged 18-Wheeler Accident Scam