A former Hampton County, South Carolina banker who was allegedly involved in financial conspiracies with disbarred attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh received his first day in federal court this week.
On Wednesday, former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte received a bond hearing and formal arraignment on an unsealed five-count federal indictment on July 20, when a Federal grand jury charged him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and embezzlement of bank funds.
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At the bail hearing held in the U.S. District Court in Charleston, Laffitte was granted $500,000 guaranteed bond and had to pay $25,000 upfront. Federal Magistrate Judge Molly Cherry also ordered him to submit to ‘ankle’ surveillance, confiscate his passport and weapons, and not communicate about the case with witnesses, along with other standard conditions. federal bail, said Derek A. Shoemake, assistant U.S. attorney. , District of South Carolina.
Laffitte is restricted to house arrest, and he is also prohibited from discussing federal charges or any bank-related matters with his family members. The Laffitte family founded the Palmetto State Bank more than a century ago.
Laffitte posted bail the same day, the U.S. attorney’s office said. His attorney, Bart Daniel, did not return emails this week or last week seeking comment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Limehouse had only asked for $25,000 bail, but attorneys Eric Bland and Ronald Richter, who represent two of Laffitte and Murdaugh’s alleged financial victims, pleaded for more. Laffitte allegedly committed “extremely fraudulent conduct” and “abused the trust of these girls [his young clients]”Bland said.
“This is not a parking ticket case,” Bland told the court. “You need to send a message. It’s not Alex Murdaugh, but he needs a reasonable bond.”
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On Friday, Bland told the Hampton County Guardian that he and his clients, who were in the courtroom, were “very pleased” with the outcome of the hearing.
Bland Richter LLP represents Alania Spohn and Hannah Plyler, who are sisters. On July 16, 2005, the sisters lost their mother and brother and suffered serious injuries in a tragic rollover car accident when they were minors. Murdaugh handled their civil action, and Laffitte was appointed curator in their case.
The federal indictment alleges that Laffitte conspired with Murdaugh, then a partner at a Hampton law firm, PMPED, to commit wire fraud and bank fraud while he was CEO of Palmetto State Bank of Hampton . According to the prosecution, Laffitte and Murdaugh engaged in a scheme to defraud clients of Murdaugh and his law firm out of funds held at Palmetto State Bank.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that Laffitte, while custodial for two of Murdaugh’s clients (Spohn and Plyer), made $355,000 in personal loans to him and $990,000 in personal loans to Murdaugh at from customer funds held at Hampton’s bank. Much of those funds were used to cover overdrafts in Murdaugh’s personal account.
The indictment also alleges that, under Murdaugh’s direction, Laffitte transferred clients’ disbursed settlement funds into bank money orders, cash and other wire transfers while collecting $391,781.07 in fees to serve as custodian. and personal representative for these clients.
Additionally, according to the indictment, on two separate occasions Laffitte misappropriated bank funds: On October 28, 2021, Laffitte paid the law firm $680,000 without notice or consent from PSB, knowing that he had fraudulently transferred the money to the bank customer. Finally, the indictment alleges that on July 15, 2021, Laffitte embezzled $750,000 in bank funds by providing an unsecured business loan to Murdaugh.
If convicted, Laffitte faces a maximum prison term of 30 years on all federal charges, in addition to any sentence stemming from similar charges of fraud and conspiracy brought against him by the state grand jury. earlier this year.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Assistant US Attorney Emily Limehouse is pursuing the case.
Laffitte was indicted on state grand jury charges in connection with Murdaugh. Prior to the federal bail hearing, he was granted $1 million bail, house arrest, and similar restrictions on state charges.
Laffitte was fired from his post at PSB in January 2022 after allegations of misconduct first emerged.
Laffitte’s federal indictments came the same day Murdaugh received a bond hearing in Colleton County for the June 7, 2021 murder of his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul. Bond was dismissed for these charges.
Murdaugh, who now faces a total of 88 criminal charges ranging from financial crimes to drug charges and violent offenses, remains in the Richland County Detention Center on a $7 million pre-bail for the financial allegations.