La. Officials Blow Whistle on Train Caper

December 21, 2004

The second Louisiana defendant in a staged train accident was sentenced recently in the United States District Court.

Forrest Brandon Buxton, 44, from Oakdale, La. was sentenced by United States District Judge Patricia Minaldi to 37 months imprisonment to be followed by 3 years supervised release for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, announced United States Attorney Donald Washington. Buxton and co-defendant Julius Ware were indicted in December 2003, for reportedly causing a train accident in an attempt to make a fraudulent claim for money against a railroad company. Ware was sentenced in September of this year to 22 months imprisonment to be followed by 3 years supervised release.

In January 2003, Ware and Buxton reportedly agreed to drive a vehicle onto the railroad tracks in Oakdale, and allowed an oncoming train to hit the rear of Ware’s vehicle. The defendants planned to file lawsuits claiming negligence against the Union Pacific Railroad.

As plotted by Ware and Buxton, on Jan. 30, 2003, Ware parked his pickup truck on the train tracks so that only the rear of the truck would be struck by the train. Buxton was a passenger in Ware’s truck. The two defendants reportedly watched the train approach and collide with their vehicle. The defendants then made claims for personal injuries after the collision. They initially claimed that they began crossing the train tracks because no whistle was heard from the train and neither of them saw the approaching train.

Both defendants employed personal injury lawyers, who began negotiating a settlement of the fraudulent claim. Buxton, through his civil attorney, John Fontenot, requested a settlement in the amount of $196,285.82, from the Southern Pacific Railroad, in connection with the above described train wreck. Buxton’s attorney reportedly used the U.S. Mail to convey the settlement demand by mailing the demand letter from Eunice, Louisiana, to Spring, Texas.

During the August 2004, plea hearing, Buxton admitted that the entire scheme was planned in an attempt to defraud and obtain money from the railroad company.

In the sentencing hearing Judge Minaldi noted that this was not a typical mail fraud case. The defendants endangered the lives of the engineer on the train and countless others. The collision could have caused the train to derail, which could have led to substantial loss of life.

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