SC former bank CEO indicted with Alex Murdaugh, another lawyer in scheme to defraud deaf quadriplegic man

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A South Carolina ex-banker was charged for the first time Wednesday alongside disgraced legal scion Alex Murdaugh and Murdaugh’s former college roommate and lawyer friend in connection to a money laundering scheme allegedly targeting a deaf quadriplegic man and his mother and cousin. 

Russell Laffitte, fired as CEO of Palmetto State Bank in January, was named in three superseding indictments unveiled by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson also tacking on new charges for Murdaugh and former attorney and the godfather of one of Murdaugh’s sons, Cory Fleming. 

It’s the first time 51-year-old Laffitte has been indicted in connection to the state grand jury’s investigation. He is charged with 21 counts for schemes to defraud victims of more than $1.8 million. One of the indictments alleges the ex-banker conspired to misappropriate to Murdaugh $309,581.46 in funds Laffitte held in trust as conservator for Hakeem L. Pinckney and his estate at Palmetto State Bank. 

ALEX MURDAUGH EMBEZZLED FROM DEAF QUADRIPLEGIC, PATROLMAN INJURED IN LINE OF DUTY: LAWYER 

Pinckney, a hearing-impaired former athlete, was rendered a quadriplegic from a car collision that also left his mother, Pamela Pinckney, and cousin, Natarsha Thomas, seriously injured. The deaf quadriplegic man later died at a care facility, and Murdaugh is accused of using his prestige and reputation as a lawyer to secretly misappropriate settlement funds for his personal use, including to pay back loans.

Alex Murdaugh, fourth generation of a powerful South Carolina dynasty and owner of a boat involved in a fatal accident, leaves a hearing in a personal injury lawsuit at the Richland County Courthouse. 

Alex Murdaugh, fourth generation of a powerful South Carolina dynasty and owner of a boat involved in a fatal accident, leaves a hearing in a personal injury lawsuit at the Richland County Courthouse. 
(John Monk/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Fox News Digital was the first outlet to report about the allegations surrounding Murdaugh and the deaf quadriplegic man in January. 

As attorney for Pamela Pinckney, 53-year-old Fleming had access to $89,133.44 in funds held in trust that he allegedly misappropriated to Murdaugh, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday. He also allegedly commandeered $8,078.46 from Pamela Pinckney’s trust for his own personal expenses to take himself, Murdaugh, and another attorney on a private plane to the 2012 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Fleming allegedly sent thousands of more dollars Murdaugh’s way from Pamela Pinckney’s trust under the false and fictitious guise of unspecific case expenses. As conservator for Natarsha Thomas, Laffitte allegedly misappropriated to Murdaugh $350,245.08 held in trust at Palmetto State Bank.

SC EX-LAWYER ALEX MURDAUGH FRONTED $110K TO PURCHASE GEORGIA FUNERAL HOME IN 2020: COURT DOCS 

This photo shows Hakeem Pinckney, a deaf man who Murdaugh represented after he was rendered a quadriplegic in a 2009 car crash. 

This photo shows Hakeem Pinckney, a deaf man who Murdaugh represented after he was rendered a quadriplegic in a 2009 car crash. 
(JUSTIN BAMBERG)

Finally, Laffitte is accused of misappropriating nearly $1.2 million in funds under his control at Palmetto State Bank to Murdaugh, in part to allow Murdaugh to pay back loans Laffitte had issued to him from client funds in an unrelated case in which Laffitte served as a fiduciary. 

In the months following the still-unsolved June 2021 double murders of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and their younger son, Paul Murdaugh, on the family’s Colleton County hunting estate, 53-year-old Alex Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes carried out through the historic Hampton, South Carolina, personal injury law firm founded by his great-grandfather more than a century ago began to unravel.

At the time of his death, boating under the influence charges were still pending against Paul Murdaugh in connection to a February 2018 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach and injured several other teenage passengers. 

Alex Murdaugh awaits the beginning of his bond hearing in the Richland Judicial Center in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. 

Alex Murdaugh awaits the beginning of his bond hearing in the Richland Judicial Center in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine, Pool)

Murdaugh’s law license was suspended on September 8, 2021, and he was later indicted by a Colleton County grand jury for offenses related to a botched scheme to commit suicide allegedly so that his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy. 

Up until September, Murdaugh had also served as a volunteer prosecutor for the local solicitor’s office his family controlled for 86 consecutive years. 

Before Wednesday, Murdaugh had been previously indicted by the South Carolina state grand jury in November 2021, December 2021, January 2022, and March 2022 on various offenses related to fraud, money laundering, computer crimes and criminal conspiracy. 

He has been held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County, South Carolina, since October 2021.  

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Through 15 indictments containing 79 charges, the state grand jury so far has indicted Murdaugh for schemes to defraud victims of nearly $8.5 million. Through two indictments containing 23 charges against him, Fleming has been indicted for schemes to defraud victims of more than $3.7 million. Fleming’s law license has been suspended since October 2021, but he wasn’t indicted for the first time until March of this year. 

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