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Date: 06-25-2021

Case Style:

United States of America v. James "Curtis" Williams and Ryan Wheaten

Case Number: 2:20-cr-00080-LMA-DPC

Judge: Lance M. Africk

Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana (Orleans Parish)

Plaintiff's Attorney: United States District Attorney’s Office

Defendant's Attorney:


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Description: New Orleans, Louisiana mail fraud charge criminal defense lawyers represented Defendants.

On March 27, 2017, James "Curtis" Williams, age 66, and Ryan Wheaten, age 53, conspired with co-defendants-passengers Tanya Givens (“Givens”), John Diggs (“J. Diggs”), and Lois Russell (“Russell”) to stage an accident with a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road. Damien Labeaud (“Labeaud”) and Roderick Hickman (“Hickman”), who have pleaded guilty to staging other accidents, also participated in this accident. Hickman, while driving Russell’s car, intentionally struck the 18-wheeler and then fled the scene with Labeaud. Russell advised NOPD that she was the driver and she, along with WILLIAMS, Givens and J. Diggs, made claims for personal injuries. In total, the victim trucking and insurance companies paid out approximately $272,500.00 for these fraudulent claims. Today, WILLIAMS joins Hickman, Russell, Givens and J. Diggs in pleading guilty to this staged accident.

Also according to a guilty plea, on May 17, 2017, WHEATEN, along with participants Labeaud, Mario Solomon (“Solomon”), Henry Randle (“Randle”), and Dakota Diggs (“D. Diggs”), participated in a staged automobile accident in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 90 East and Calliope Street in New Orleans. Labeaud and Solomon fled the scene. Randle falsely reported to the NOPD that he had been driving and that the tractor-trailer had struck his vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Labeaud and Solomon went on to stage a second accident in the vicinity of Louisa Street and Chickasaw Street with Bernell Gale (“Gale”), Troy Smith (“Smith”), Marvel Francois (“Francois”), and another passenger. Labeaud, Solomon, Wheaten, Gale, Smith, and Francois were also charged. Labeaud, Solomon, Gale, Smith, and Francois already pled guilty. After the staged accident, Wheaten, Randle, and D. Diggs made claims for personal injuries. The victim trucking and insurance companies paid out approximately $10,000.00 for these fraudulent claims.

WILLIAMS and WHEATEN face a maximum sentence of five (5) years. Upon release from prison, WILLIAMS and WHEATEN also face a term of supervised release up to (3) three years, and/or a fine of $250,000 or the greater of twice the gross gain to each defendant or twice the gross loss to any person under Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Sentencing in this matter is scheduled for October 27, 2021.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office would also 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 Edward J. Rivera, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, Supervisor of the Financial Crimes Unit.

18:371 CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT MAIL FRAUD
(1)
18:1341 MAIL FRAUD; 18:2 AIDING AND ABETTING
(2-4)

Outcome: Defendants pleaded guilty. The face a maximum sentence of five (5) years. Upon release from prison, WILLIAMS and WHEATEN also face a term of supervised release up to (3) three years, and/or a fine of $250,000 or the greater of twice the gross gain to each defendant or twice the gross loss to any person under Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Sentencing in this matter is scheduled for October 27, 2021.

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