An associate of former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh was indicted on charges that he helped the accused murderer launder and misappropriate millions of dollars.
A federal grand jury charged former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte with conspiracy, wire fraud, and bank fraud on Wednesday.
Laffitte served as a conservator for Alania Spohn and Hannah Plyler, two young sisters represented by Murdaugh. The sisters were awarded settlement money in connection with a 2005 accident that killed their mother and brother, according to the indictment.
Laffitte allegedly schemed with the disgraced lawyer to pillage the girl’s accounts and steal $355,000 for himself and $990,000 for Murdaugh, court documents said.
He also misused bank funds to give Murdaugh an unauthorized $750,000 loan for “beach house renovations and expenses” and sent $680,000 of the bank’s money to pay back a debt Murdaugh had illegally transferred to him, according to the grand jury.
In addition, Laffitte earned nearly $400,000 for supposedly safeguarding the Plyler sister’s money, according to the document. He had allegedly been in cahoots with Murdaugh to steal from the girls since 2011 and faces 30 years in prison if convicted.
Laffitte was fired from his role as the bank’s CEO in January, according to The Greenfield News. His family reportedly launched the institution in 1907, just three years before Murdaugh’s great-grandfather founded the law firm that bore his name.
Murdaugh, 54, who pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in connection with the brutal murders of his wife and son, was identified in the document only as “The Bank Customer,” but was outed by lawyers for the now-grown Plyler sisters.
“The girls viewed Russ Laffitte as a father figure and trusted him to navigate the waters ahead for them and to guide them,” lawyers Eric Bland and Ronald Richter wrote in a statement.
“It is difficult to express the emotions and disappointment of learning years later that those who had sworn to protect the Plylers chose instead to prey upon them. Russ Laffitte and Alex Murdaugh plundered their conservator accounts and treated it like their own personal slush fund,” the statement continued.
Murdaugh, a once-powerful legal scion in Hampton County, faces 71 charges in connection with his alleged theft of a combined $8.5 million from clients.
The children of his housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died at the Murdaugh home under suspicious circumstances in 2018, recovered $4.3 million last year that he allegedly pilfered from them by suing himself to collect personal liability insurance.
Murdaugh allegedly killed his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, at their hunting estate last June and then hired a drug dealer to try to kill him so his surviving son could collect $10 million in life insurance payments.
The gunman failed to kill Murdaugh, grazing him instead, and the once prominent lawyer was disbarred when prosecutors filed charges in connection with the botched hit.
Murdaugh then stepped down from the prestigious law firm that his great-grandfather founded to go to rehab for opioid addiction, his lawyer said. The firm has since removed his family name from its title.
The Murdaugh’s swift fall from grace began after Paul was arrested for a drunken boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach in 2019. He was allegedly murdered by his father before he could stand trial.