COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Russell Laffitte, a former banker and associate of Alex Murdaugh, appeared in a Richland County courtroom on Friday just days after being indicted by a State Grand Jury.
Judge Allison Lee set a $1 million surety bond with a 10% cash option for the former banker.
Laffitte turned himself into the Kershaw County Detention Center Friday morning following Wednesday’s state grand jury charges in which Laffitte is accused of helping Alex Murdaugh and suspended attorney Cory Fleming divert nearly $2 million from clients on three separate instances.
State attorneys argue Laffitte has failed to cooperate with investigations and has a long-standing relationship with the Murdaugh family.
Laffitte claims he was duped by Murdaugh by trusting settlement money for clients was going to the right place. State prosecutors say the evidence tells a different story.
“What the allegations are here and what we see is a long association between Mr. Russell Laffitte and Alex Murdaugh,” says Creighton Waters, Chief Attorney for the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. “There’s a long association between their families.”
$1.8 million owed to victims is completely gone. Money orders and bank sheets show Murdaugh and Laffitte worked together, diverting six-figure payments to themselves, family, and friends all while covering up personal debts.
“Get disbursement checks from the trust account made up of client money made out to Palmetto State Bank. Alex would take those to Mr. Laffitte who would then happily convert those to personal use for Mr. Alex Murdaugh.
Meanwhile, Laffitte’s defense says their client has provided evidence and statements to investigators and has attempted to pay back victims. They also claim he was tricked by Alex Murdaugh.
One of the indictments, out of Hampton County, is connected to an alleged scheme between Murdaugh and Laffitte to misappropriate more than $350,000 in settlement funds from the victim of a crash that Murdaugh was said to have represented.
“Murdaugh diverted those settlement funds to Palmetto State Bank and converted the money for personal use. Laffitte was the Vice President of Palmetto State Bank and the conservator for Thomas,” according to information provided by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
The indictment states that Laffitte “did assist in causing [bank computer] systems to be accessed to surreptitiously misappropriate” the funds.
Murdaugh and Laffitte are both being charged with Criminal Conspiracy. Laffitte is being charged individually for Breach of Trust with Fraudulent Intent, Value More than $10,000 (2 counts); and Computer Crime, Value More than $10,000.
You can read more about the recent indictments by clicking here.
If Laffitte posts bond, he will be placed on house arrest with an ankle monitor, will have to surrender his passport and can not leave South Carolina.
Laffitte currently owns more than 23,000 shares of Palmetto State Bank, which is reportedly worth more than $700,000,000.