HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — A former bank CEO accused of stealing from clients, as part of a scheme by Alex Murdaugh goes in front of a judge for the first time since his indictment.
Russell Laffitte turned himself into authorities in Kershaw County Friday morning, just two days after being indicted on 21 different charges handed down by a South Carolina Grand Jury.
Investigators allege Laffitte assisted Murdaugh in defrauding his clients out of $1.8 million.
“An exhausting velocity of money over many many years on behalf of Mr. Murdaugh. In addition to anything he may have legitimately earned he constantly had to beg borrow and allegedly steal to stay afloat,” said Creighton Waters of the South Carolina Attorney general’s Office. “An important cog in that hamster wheel that kept spinning was his fried at Palmetto State Bank Russell Laffitte.”
During his bond hearing this morning, prosecutors for the South Carolina Attorney General’s office detailed the scheme where Laffitte, who was fired from Palmetto State Bank in January, would allegedly take money from clients insurance settlements and loan it to Alex Murdaugh.
“There was a long association between Mr. Russell Laffitte and Alex Murdaugh, there was a long association between their families, very prominent families in Hampton County,” said Waters.
“He would take disbursement checks made out to Palmetto State Bank,” explains Waters. “He would take those to Mr. Laffitte would then happily convert those to personal use for Mr. Alex Murdaugh. Why would Mr. Laffitte allegedly do that? He was a loan officer who had given a whole lot of loans to Alex. The bank has a lot of exposure and Mr. Laffitte is the officer responsible for those loans.”
Laffitte and Murdaugh had a system where he would then pay one loan back with the money and account of another client.
Those clients would never see a dollar of the money that they had rightfully earned.
“That money that Mr. Laffitte had a system of converting is to pay 6 figures to one of Mr. Laffitte’s family members,” says Waters. “To pay six figures to a Murdaugh family member. To pay six figures to one of Mr. Murdaugh’s law partners. To pay 5 figure large purchases for Alex, to pay debts for Alex, to give Alex cash.”
Laffitte’s lawyers fought back saying he deserved a low bond. Saying their client had worked to cooperate with investigators, offering them documents to help their case.
In addition, they claimed that Laffitte had even been trying to pay back some of the victims
Prosecutor Creighton Waters countered that by saying that the money Laffitte used to pay victims back actually came from the bank itself, not his personal account.
He added that Laffitte owns 7% of the shares in Palmetto State Bank. A business that is worth $700 million. More than enough money, Waters added, to make Laffitte a flight risk, and why a high bond was needed.
In the end, The former Palmetto State Bank CEO was given a $1 million bond by Judge Alison Lee.
If he does post that bond, he does not have a passport, he will be placed on house arrest and electronic monitoring and be unable to leave the state.
Murdaugh is charged in 15 separate indictments totaling 79 charges against him. He allegedly attempted to steal almost $8.4 million from his alleged victims.