Two Indicted for Murder of Key Witness in Louisiana Staged-Accident Case

Over three and a half years after Cornelius Garrison was fatally shot, a man and a woman have been formally charged in connection with his death. Garrison was a cooperating suspect in a widespread Louisiana insurance fraud scheme involving staged accidents with commercial vehicles.

Ryan “Red” Harris, 35, and Jovanna Gardner, 39, were indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The announcement was made on Monday, revealing that both individuals face five federal charges each. These charges include conspiracy to commit witness tampering through murder, witness tampering through murder, conspiracy to retaliate against a witness through murder, retaliation against a witness through murder, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Garrison was murdered in his New Orleans residence on September 22, 2020, just four days after he was indicted for his role in “Operation Sideswipe.” This operation involved staging collisions with trucks and, in one instance, a bus, to fraudulently extract insurance payments from various trucking companies. The targets ranged from small businesses with only a few trucks to larger entities like C.R. England.

Neither Harris nor Gardner were previously indicted in the Operation Sideswipe case for their direct involvement in staging the accidents. However, the mail and wire fraud charges combined with the murder-related allegations suggest that prosecutors are intensifying their efforts to address the broader implications of the scheme.

The U.S. Attorney’s office reported that out of 52 people charged in connection with Operation Sideswipe, 48 have entered guilty pleas, with no cases proceeding to trial. The U.S. Attorney’s office’s statement detailed the typical procedures in these staged accidents: several individuals would be placed in a vehicle, a truck would be identified for collision by separate “spotters” in another car, the “slammer” would then crash into the truck, and after the collision, spotters would help the slammer flee the scene. Another individual would then take the driver’s seat to fake injuries and claim medical compensation.

Details about Garrison’s murder are sparse, but authorities indicated that his killing was part of a strategy to prevent him from cooperating with federal investigators and revealing more about the collision-staging conspiracy.

Harris and Gardner appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby and are currently held in federal custody. At Gardner’s detention hearing, prosecutors mentioned that while she did not directly commit the murder, she was involved in orchestrating it. Consequently, Judge Roby ruled that Gardner should remain in custody.

Leave a Comment

Verified by MonsterInsights