Pair Accused of Murdering Informant in New Orleans Staged Car Crash Scheme

The murder victim, who had been indicted on charges related to the same scheme, had started cooperating with federal investigators.


A federal probe into staged automobile collisions in New Orleans escalated to charges of murder and witness tampering, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Louisiana.

A five-count indictment was unsealed against Ryan J. Harris, 35, of New Orleans, and Jovanna R. Gardner, 39, of Chalmette, LA. Both now face allegations including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit witness tampering through murder, witness tampering through murder, and two counts of conspiracy to retaliate against a witness through murder.

Harris and Gardner allegedly aided and abetted the murder of another participant in the scheme, Cornelius Garrison, in September 2020. Garrison had began cooperating with federal investigators in 2019.

The indictment said Harris and Gardner were part of a scheme to cause caused staged collisions with other vehicles in the New Orleans area.

In the scheme, some people acted as "slammers," driving vehicles they intentionally ran into 18-wheeler tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles to stage collisions. The slammers would flee the scene and a "passenger," who had ridden along in the vehicle knowing it would be cause a crash, would falsely claim to have been driving at the time of the collision.

Harris was described as a key slammer in the operation. He also recruited and conspired with others to participate in staged collisions. Gardner was a passenger in a staged collision.

The scheme also involved "spotters," who drove getaway cars that allowed the slammers to flee the scene. The spotters would sometimes also pretend to be eyewitnesses who would flag down the commercial vehicles after the staged collisions and allege the commercial vehicles were at fault.

Additionally, the scheme included attorneys who pursued fraudulent claims and lawsuits knowing they were based on staged collisions.

The indictment said Garrison worked with Harris as a slammer and a spotter before he started working with investigators. It alleged Harris and Gardner were involved in Garrison's murder on Sept. 22, 2020 -- two days after Garrison was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and other offenses related to the staged collisions -- to prevent him from testifying.

Harris and Gardner made their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby on May 6, who remanded them to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

If convicted on all counts, Harris and Gardner face up to 20 years in prison for the fraud-related charges and potential life sentences for the charges related to witness tampering and retaliation.

So far, 52 defendants have been charged in the federal probe into staged car crashes in the New Orleans area.

Website Rt Graphic Ep.51 Nancy Rolland 600x400 1.9.24

Shop & Product Showcase