A banker has been convicted of helping disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh steal money from people who hired him to be their attorney.
Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte, 51, was found guilty on Tuesday of six counts of wire and bank fraud charges, the Associated Press reported. He faces up to 30 years in prison for each of the charges, but has been allowed to remain free on bail before he is sentenced.
Laffitte’s trial was the first connected to the web of crime of which Murdaugh has been accused, including murder charges for allegedly killing his wife and son, and more than 100 other charges including money laundering, drug offenses, and more.
Laffitte claimed at his trial that he had been duped by Murdaugh into helping the now-disbarred attorney steal from clients. When asked by a prosecutor whether he stole the money, Laffitte reportedly replied, “I did, but absolutely not intentionally.”
Prosecutors, however, were able to convince a jury that Laffitte willfully participated in the fraud. They argued that Laffitte knew exactly what he was doing when he loaned himself and Murdaugh money from client settlement money.
“None of this would have happened without Alex Murdaugh, but none of it could have happened without the defendant,” prosecutor Emily Limehouse said during her closing statement.
Murdaugh in July pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife and son. At that time, he was already in prison for dozens of other charges, including financial crimes and charges related to his alleged attempt to stage a fake “hit” on himself. Those charges, according to The Washington Post, were made after his wife and son were killed, but he had not been indicted for their deaths until last week.
The murder charge was the latest in a long and bizarre story regarding the once prominent South Carolina attorney. After Murdaugh’s wife, 52-year-old Margaret, and their 22-year-old son Paul, were found murdered, police began looking into Murdaugh’s life and discovered numerous disturbing details.
Murdaugh was accused of stealing $8.5 million from people who had hired him to be their attorney. He is also alleged to have orchestrated his own murder by hiring a friend to kill him so that his surviving son, Buster, could receive a $10 million life insurance payout. Murdaugh allegedly lied to police about the incident, claiming a stranger shot him on the side of the road. This all took place just days after Murdaugh’s firm discovered he had allegedly been stealing money from clients.
Further, state police began looking into the hit-and-run death of a 19-year-old in July 2015 as a possible connection to Murdaugh, but no additional details have been released. Authorities also exhumed the body of Murdaugh’s former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who was said to have died after a fall in 2018. Murdaugh allegedly collected more than $4 million from his home insurer by claiming wrongful death and saying he was working for Satterfield’s family, but the family didn’t receive any of the money, according to prosecutors.
Murdaugh was also indicted in June for alleged money laundering and creating a “distribution network” for painkillers, the Associated Press reported at the time. Murdaugh allegedly ran the drug ring with the same friend he allegedly hired to kill him.
Murdaugh has repeatedly denied killing his wife and son, saying he was visiting his parents when they were killed. He’s been in jail since October 2021 with a $7 million bond. Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court disbarred him, with his attorneys declining to contest the arguments against his disbarment.