CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte – an associate of Alex Murdaugh – was given a $500,000 bond during a Wednesday morning arraignment in Charleston, of which he must pay $25,000.
Laffitte is facing a five-count indictment from a federal Grand Jury charging the former banker with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and misapplication of bank funds.
Laffitte is accused of helping Alex Murdaugh and suspended attorney Cory Fleming divert nearly $2 million from clients in three separate instances.
Magistrate Judge Molly H Cherry presided over the case in a federal courtroom in downtown Charleston. Laffitte is also ordered to house arrest, must surrender his passport and cannot have any communication with Palmetto State Bank employees or families involved in the case.
An alleged victim of Laffite, Alania Spohn was in court on Wednesday to represent her and her sister before the court. After the hearing, Spohn spoke about the alleged charges.
“The best way to put it was he was like a father figure to me,” says Alania Spohn, a victim in the case. “It was obviously all business on his part.”
Hannah Plyler and Alania Spohn lost their mother and brother in a 2005 car accident, both were badly injured in the wreck. A large wrongful death settlement was won by now disbarred Attorney Alex Murdaugh, Laffitte served as the conservator over the money and put it into a trust to pay the girls when they turned 18 according to attorneys and indictments. The pair stands accused of stealing nearly two million dollars from the girls.
“So I couldn’t believe it,” says Spohn. “I could not believe it. He was very trusted and it just kind of goes to show that you just can’t trust everyone.”
Last Wednesday, Laffitte was indicted on federal charges for bank fraud, wire fraud, and more. Laffitte was given a bond with several conditions including location monitoring. The victim’s attorneys say the charges may not have come if they didn’t speak up.
“You know for any client who was a client of Alex (Murdaugh) to come forward and make allegations against him, make allegations against a prominent banker and ultimately the system,” says Eric Bland, an Attorney for the victims.
The charges allege Laffitte took loans for himself and Murdaugh out of the victim’s trust accounts for personal expenses. The trust was set to pay the girls when they turned 18. Laffitte is accused of using his bank power to take money from other client’s accounts to cover the debt.
“Yeah, there’s obviously a balance to be struck,” says Attorney Ronnie Richter, also representing the victims. “Laffitte is presumed innocent, we accept that. We know what the facts are.”
In court, Laffitte’s Attorneys argue their client was unaware of what was going on and blame Alex Murdaugh but say their client is ready to take responsibility. The defense is hoping for justice in the case.
“You know if he can mount a defense to it, god bless him,” says Richter. “We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Laffitte’s lawyers say they plan to go before a judge next week to ask for their client’s bond on separate State Grand Jury charges to be reconsidered and or reduced. Laffitte’s attorneys said in court Wednesday their client posted a little over $200,000 in bond on those charges.
Laffitte would not comment on the case to News 2 while leaving court on Wednesday.