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We've all seen the lawyer billboards touting a big settlement in an 18 wheeler wreck case.  The lawsuit industry is big in Louisiana, especially when it comes to big truck accidents.  It's easy to see why - these huge haulers can cause some real damage, and the companies that operate the trucking lines in our state (and across the country for that matter) have money and lawyers of their own set aside just in case they get caught in the legal crosshairs.

With that much money on the line, thieves and con-men have been gaming the system for a big payday for years - but it's not always easy to ascertain whether or not claims of this nature are legitimate or not.  According to US News and World Report, authorities in New Orleans have charged 4 men and indicted 28 others in a crash-for-cash scheme that prosecutors say ended in a fraudulent $4.7 settlement.

This alleged scam ring is accused of no less than faking and/or causing accidents with tractor-trailers in order to sue the trucking company for a big time payday.  Anthony Robinson, 66; Audrey Harris, 53; Jerry Schaffer, 65, and Keishira Robinson, 25 were all charged with 2 counts of mail fraud and 1 count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.  If convicted, they could face up to 45 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

The tale becomes even more sordid and steeped in conspiracy when you consider that Cornelius Garrison (one of the 32 indicted in the case) was gunned down just days after he began cooperating with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office.  According to WWLTV, Garrison was accused of being involved in more than 50 staged accidents in the scheme.

3 unnamed lawyers are also allegedly involved in the scam, but there names were not released at the time of this report.

The operation usually involved multiple, high-occupancy vehicles that would involve themselves in a crash that targeted an 18-wheeler.  Several of those indicted are also accused of being on location and giving responding police an "eyewitness account."