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The former CEO of a South Carolina bank has been indicted for conspiring with disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh to defraud victims—including a deaf man who was left quadriplegic after a damaging car crash—of nearly $2 million.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced the 21 charges against Russell Lucius Laffitte, along with new charges for both Murdaugh and his friend and fellow attorney Cory Fleming, in a statement from his office Wednesday.
Four new charges were added to staggering list of criminal accusations against Murdaugh, who is now facing a total of 79 criminal charges, while five new charges were lobbied against Fleming.
Fleming has been accused of, among other things, stealing just over $8,000 from the mother of Hakeem L. Pinckney, who was left quadriplegic after a 2009 car crash and later died in 2011. He allegedly used the ill-gotten gains meant for the victim’s family to fly himself, Murdaugh and another attorney on a private plane to the 2012 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, authorities said.
Laffitte, 51, had served as chief executive officer at the Palmetto State Bank until he was fired in January. It is the first time he’s been criminally charged for his alleged association with Murdaugh; he's accused of helping the disgraced attorney misappropriate funds that were being held at the bank.
The first of three superseding indictments from the grand jury charges Murdaugh and Laffitte with one count of criminal conspiracy for allegedly working together to “surreptitiously misappropriate” $350,245.08 in funds to Murdaugh that Laffitte had held in a trust while serving as the conservator for Natarsha Thomas.
Thomas and Hakeem’s mother, Pamela Pinckney, had also been severely injured in the crash that left Hakeem a quadriplegic, according to FITS News.
Murdaugh was accused of using settlement funds he secured for Thomas to be made out in a check to “Settlement Proceeds: Natasha Thomas” in the amount of $325,000 to the bank and disbursed from a client trust account of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Elztroth and Detrick, P.A. (PMPED), but then used the check to purchase a money order payable to an unnamed family member, according to the indictment.
Rather than giving the money to Thomas, he “breached” her trust and used the money for his own personal use, authorities said.
Laffitte is accused in helping Murdaugh divert the money for his own personal use. Laffitte has also been charged with two counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent of a value more than $10,00 and a computer crime in connection to the scheme.
The pair are also accused of similarly misappropriating $309,581.46 in money Laffitte held in trust as a conservator for Hakeem and his estate, according to a second indictment. Rather than going to the intended victim, authorities said Murdaugh used the money to pay back loans Laffitte had issued him from client funds in an unrelated case.
Fleming and Murdaugh are also accused of defrauding Hakeem’s mother, Pamela Pinckey, and are facing charges of criminal conspiracy for working together to allegedly divert $89,133.44 in money meant for Pamela to Murdaugh himself. Fleming is also facing charges for allegedly stealing $8,078.46 from Pamela for his own personal use to take that flight to the College World Series.
The Pinckney’s family attorney, state Rep. Justin Bamberg, described the latest criminal charges to FITSNews as a “long time coming.”
“The Pinckneys have waited over a decade for things to be made right,” he said. “If people didn’t get it before, they should get it now. No stone will be left unturned.”
Finally, a third indictment accused Murdaugh and Laffitte of criminal conspiracy for acting together to misappropriate nearly $1.2 million being controlled at the bank by Laffitte to Murdaugh, who used the money to pay back loans Laffitte had issued him in an unrelated case. The settlement money had been meant for Arthur Badger, a man who had lost his wife Donna in a vehicular crash.
Laffitte was accused of being an “aider and abettor” in 12 breach of trust counts in connection the alleged scheme.
“In his role as a bank executive, Laffitte intentionally enabled Murdaugh to conduct transactions to further Murdaugh’s schemes that should have never been conducted,” the indictment read.
In total, Laffitte is accused of schemes to defraud victims of $1,832,772.30, authorities said.
His attorney Matt Austin said in a statement to FITSNews that his client is maintaining his innocence and has been cooperating with authorities
“We intend to fight the charges vigorously and look forward to our client having his day in court,” Austin said.
Murdaugh and Fleming—who had been Murdaugh’s college roommate and the godparent to one of his children—are already facing criminal charges in connection to a similar alleged scheme to defraud the family of Murdaugh’s long-time housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
Satterfield died in 2018 after a fall at Murdaugh’s Colleton County home. Authorities have said Murdaugh encouraged her family to hire Fleming to sue him in a wrongful death case, without ever revealing that Fleming was one of his closest friends. He then allegedly funneled millions of dollars meant for the family in an insurance settlement into his own personal accounts.
Murdaugh had once been a successful lawyer who hailed from a prestigious legal South Carolina family but his life began to unravel after his wife Maggie and son Paul were found shot to death on the family’s Colleton County hunting compound in June.
The investigation into their deaths brought to light the series of alleged financial crimes committed by Murdaugh, who is now accused of defrauding victims of $8,492,888.31 across the 79 charges against him, authorities said.
The double homicide remains unsolved.
For more on the case, watch Oxygen's special "Alex Murdaugh: Death. Deception. Power."
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