Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana
Friday, March 3, 2023
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that BERNELL GALE (“GALE”), age 46 of Raceland, Louisiana, TANYA GIVENS (“GIVENS”), age 45, of Gibson, Louisiana; and DAKOTA DIGGS (“D. DIGGS”), age 27, of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, were each sentenced on March 1, 2023 in United States District Court. Each defendant had previously pled to one count of 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 court records, on March 27, 2017, GIVENS conspired with passengers Lois Russell (“Russell”), John Diggs (“J. Diggs”), and James “Curtis” Williams (“Williams”) 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”) also participated in this accident. Hickman, while driving Russell’s car, intentionally struck the 18-wheeler and then fled the scene in a getaway vehicle driven by Labeaud. Russell advised NOPD that she was the driver and she, along with 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.
According to court records, on May 17, 2017, D. DIGGS, Henry Randle (“H. Randle”), and Ryan Wheaten (“Wheaten”) served as passengers in an automobile collision staged by Labeaud in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 90 East and Calliope Street in New Orleans. Labeaud fled the scene in a getaway car driven by Mario Solomon. H. 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 in New Orleans with GALE, Troy Smith (“Smith”), Marvel Francois (“Francois”), and another passenger. After these collisions, D. DIGGS, H. Randle, Wheaten, GALE, Smith, and Francois made fraudulent claims for personal injuries. The victim trucking and insurance companies paid out approximately $10,000.00 for these phony claims.
U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk sentenced DIGGS to 60 months of probation, restitution in the amount of $11,000 and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. GIVENS was sentenced to 60 months of probation, restitution in the amount of $363,970.63 and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. GALE was sentenced to 36 months of probation and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. The court set a restitution hearing for GALE for May 31, 2023 at 2 p.m.
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, both of the Financial Crimes Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit.