Former Lowcountry banker, alleged Murdaugh conspirator faces cross-examination in trial
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Prosecutors spent Monday morning questioning the former Lowcountry banker accused of helping a disgraced Lowcountry attorney steal approximately $2 million from clients.
Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and misapplication of bank funds. Prosecutors say Laffitte helped former attorney Alex Murdaugh steal client money. Laffitte was Murdaugh’s personal banker and signed on to manage accounts for some of Murdaugh’s clients as a conservator.
Laffitte said when he was acting on behalf of Murdaugh’s clients, he trusted Murdaugh the way a client would wholeheartedly trust the lawyer.
The government also questioned Laffite and the bank loaning Murdaugh money for things like farming or house renovations, which instead appeared to be used to pay off debts.
“I don’t know what he’s got going on,” Laffitte said. “If you started calling and questioning every odd check you get in the bank, you’d be doing it all day. In hindsight, I wish I had.”
The government continues to argue that Laffitte benefitted from conservator fees on the accounts and let Murdaugh move money as he wished. Laffitte and his defense maintain that Murdaugh was hiding the stolen funds and deceived Laffitte.
Laffitte testified in his own defense Friday, saying everything he did was a mistake and unintentional. He said he and Murdaugh knew each other but ran in different social circles, adding he would sign the spaces on documents Murdaugh put in front of him because he trusted the lawyer.
This afternoon, each side presented their closing arguments. The prosecution laid out checks and emails and ended their case saying, “Maybe none of this would have happened without Alex Murdaugh, but none of this could have happened without Russell Laffitte.”
The defense argued the evidence does not fully prove Laffitte’s motive. Attorneys closed with “If Russell Laffitte were a guilty man, he never would have signed his name over and over and then publicly filed the documents.”
Laffitte is facing six total charges related to financial crimes including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and misapplication of bank funds.
The judge will be charging the jury with their task to review evidence and they will begin deliberating Tuesday morning.
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