Man gets fine, probation in federal insurance fraud case

One of six defendants who pleaded guilty earlier this year to insurance fraud for helping stage accidents was sentenced to probation by a federal judge Friday.

Wardell Lockett will spend the next three years on probation and pay more than $2,000 in fines and restitution, U.S. District Judge Richard Haik ordered.

Haik said federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account mitigating and aggravating factors about the crime and the criminal, showed Lockett’s sentencing range should have been six to 12 months.

“You really were the least culpable” of the defendants who took part in the fraud, Haik said.

Lockett was one of 10 defendants named in a 2013 superseding indictment charging conspiracy and wire fraud. According to the indictment, from January 2003 until 2010, the defendants staged accidents and submitted fraudulent insurance claims on phony injuries for cash.

Lockett in April pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. On Friday, he told Haik he played the role of a witness who was driving behind a car carrying four people who were part of the scheme.

Lockett used an alias when he played the witness, telling police his last name was Archield because one of his confederates who faked injuries also has the last name of Lockett.

“Why should I not put you in jail, sir?” Haik asked.

“I’m a changed man, sir,” Lockett responded.

Lockett, 31, said he’d never personally filed a claim with an insurance company.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped charges against two of the 10 defendants. Another six, including Lockett, have pleaded guilty. None of those six was sentenced to spend any additional time in prison other than what they had already served, according to federal court records.

A trial date has not been set for the remaining two defendants — Amy Estelle and Shantelle Estelle. Court records show neither of them has asked for a hearing to change their not-guilty pleas.

The case was investigated by Louisiana State Police.