NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that MARVEL FRANCOIS (“FRANCOIS”), age 51, of Houma, Louisiana, entered a plea of guilty today to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, arising out of staged automobile accidents with tractor-trailers occurring in New Orleans.
According to today’s guilty plea, on May 17, 2020, FRANCOIS, along with participants Damian Labeaud (“Labeaud”), Bernell Gale (“Gale”), Troy Smith (“Smith”), and another passenger, participated in a staged accident in the vicinity of Louisa Street and Chickasaw Street. Labeaud fled the scene. FRANCOIS falsely reported to the NOPD that she had been driving and that the tractor-trailer had struck her vehicle. Labeaud, Gale, and Smith were also charged and already pled guilty.
According to documents filed in federal court, the passengers were referred to attorneys who paid Labeaud to stage the accidents. In some cases, the attorneys knew that the participants were uninjured but referred them to medical providers for treatment to increase the value of subsequent lawsuits.
FRANCOIS faces a maximum sentence of five (5) years. Upon release from prison, FRANCOIS also faces 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 the defendant or twice the gross loss to any person under Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Sentencing in this matter is scheduled for February 24, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk. Gale and Smith are also set to be sentenced before Judge Africk on February 10, 2021. Damian Labeaud’s sentencing is set for February 18, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon.
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 Brian M. Klebba, Supervisor of the Financial Crimes Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Rivera, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirin Hakimzadeh, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Carboni.
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