Ex-attorney Murdaugh looms over fraud trial of his banker

Nov 10, 2022, 10:04 AM | Updated: 10:36 am

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A banker accused of helping disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh take money from the legal settlements of clients is the first person to stand trial in the sprawling rural South Carolina legal drama that has captivated true-crime audiences.

Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte faces wire fraud and bank fraud charges in federal court. And even though no one has connected Laffitte to the murder charges against Murdaugh in the deaths of Murdaugh’s wife and son, that case immediately popped up as Laffitte’s trial started this week.

According to news outlets, an employee at Murdaugh’s law firm testified about the firm’s links with Laffitte’s bank and said she confronted Murdaugh about missing fees from one of his cases on June 7, 2021.

Murdaugh’s wife and son were shot to death that night. Neither prosecutors in Laffitte’s, nor the investigators in the killings have mentioned whether they see a link between the events.

Meanwhile, Murdaugh is playing a key role in Laffitte’s defense. So far, cross-examination by his attorneys has focused on how Murdaugh manipulated people and lied. The defense said Laffitte was only following Murdaugh’s instructions and didn’t willfully participate in the fraud, which prosecutors need to prove to get a conviction.

Defense lawyers wanted to call Murdaugh as a witness, but Murdaugh’s attorneys said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination since he could face charges. The judge has said he would only allow Murdaugh to take the stand if he had something substantial to say.

Prosecutors said Laffitte knew what he was doing when he effectively worked as Murdaugh’s personal banker and eventually became the court-appointed custodian for the settlement money for several of his underage clients.

Laffitte loaned Murdaugh and himself money from those settlements, diverting that money from personal injury or death cases.

The trial is expected to last into next week in federal court in Charleston.

Murdaugh was disbarred and Laffitte was fired last year.

Murdaugh’s murder trial in the deaths of his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, is expected to begin in January. Murdaugh has repeatedly said he did not kill them.

Murdaugh is not charged in the ongoing federal bank fraud case, but he faces dozens of other charges in state court, including allegations that he helped run a money laundering and drug ring. He has also been accused of stealing more than $8 million in settlements he obtained in wrongful death and injury cases.

Both Murdaugh and Laffitte are from tiny Hampton County. Murdaugh’s family law firm dominated the legal community and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the area’s elected prosecutors for 87 years straight.

Laffitte’s family built Palmetto State Bank, earning a sterling reputation that led to honors like being named banker of the year by the Independent Banks of South Carolina in 2019.

And, as in many small towns, their families intertwined. The law firm employee who confronted Murdaugh about the missing money the day his wife and son died was Jeanne Seckinger, Laffitte’s sister-in-law.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Judge denies 19-year-old’s ask to attend father’s execution

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request from a 19-year-old woman to allow her to watch her father’s death by injection, upholding a Missouri law that bars anyone under 21 from witnessing an execution. Kevin Johnson is set to be executed Tuesday for killing Kirkwood, Missouri, Police Officer William McEntee in […]
11 hours ago
FILE - This March 6, 2014, file photo shows the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation's only unde...
Associated Press

US nuclear waste repository begins filling new disposal area

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Workers at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository have started using a newly mined disposal area at the underground facility in southern New Mexico. Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant made the announcement this week, saying the first containers of waste to be entombed in the new area came […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the Broward County Courthouse i...
Associated Press

New state voter fraud units finding few cases from midterms

WASHINGTON (AP) — State-level law enforcement units created after the 2020 presidential election to investigate voter fraud are looking into scattered complaints more than two weeks after the midterms but have provided no indication of systemic problems. That’s just what election experts had expected and led critics to suggest that the new units were more […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Liability finding in Conley rape allegation to be appealed

CLEVELAND (AP) — An attorney is vowing an appeal for a woman found liable by a civil jury for malicious prosecution in a rape allegation she made against a former Ohio State football standout more than five years ago. The woman’s attorney, Patrick Thomas, said his client “deserves justice and patiently waited for her day […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Suspect arrested in fatal shooting at Houston home

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A 38-year-old man has been arrested in connection to a Thanksgiving day shooting at a Houston-area home that left two people dead and two wounded, according to the Houston Police Department. A man believed to be a former spouse of one of the victims entered the home through the back door […]
11 hours ago
FILE - A Zimbabwe National Parks official inspects some of the elephant tusks during a tour of ivor...
Associated Press

Wildlife conference boosts protection for sharks, turtles

PANAMA CITY (AP) — An international wildlife conference moved to enact some of the most significant protection for shark species targeted in the fin trade and scores of turtles, lizards and frogs whose numbers are being decimated by the pet trade. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Ex-attorney Murdaugh looms over fraud trial of his banker