The South Carolina banker who was convicted last year of helping Alex Murdaugh pull off major financial fraud was sentenced this week to seven years behind bars.
Russell Laffitte, 53, was sentenced on Tuesday after a jury found him guilty on six charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, and misapplication of bank funds in November, the US Attorney’s Office of South Carolina said.
“Russell Laffitte used his position of power and trust to steal from unusually vulnerable victims,” said US Attorney Adair F. Boroughs.
“His crimes undermine the public’s trust in the judicial and banking systems, and we are grateful to the FBI, South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for their partnership in ensuring he is held accountable.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also ordered Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank, to pay over $3 million in restitution in the form of mandatory $2,000 monthly installments, the Post and Courier reported.
A portion of this amount will also be covered by Murdaugh, who is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for the June 2021 shooting deaths of his wife and son.
Last week, prosecutors asked that Laffitte get between nine and 11-and-a-half years in prison on the grounds that he has not shown remorse for helping Murdaugh, 55, mishandle about $2 million in clients’ legal settlements.
Laffitte, the state’s attorneys argued, “has lied under oath on four different occasions” and “has minimized, deflected, and denied his conduct at every level.”
During his trial last year, Laffitte admitted to moving millions of dollars at Murdaugh’s request, but insisted that he did not know that funds were actually settlement checks for the disgraced attorney’s clients.
The prosecution emphasized, however, that Laffitte and Murdaugh were childhood friends from affluent Low Country families.
While Murdaugh eventually took the helm at his family’s storied legal practice, Laffitte got a plum position at his own relatives’ bank.
For years, Laffitte was Murdaugh’s main contact at Palmetto State Bank.
“Russell Laffitte was the banker, the organizer, the one who kept the trains running. Alex Murdaugh was the rainmaker, the one who brought the money in. He (Laffitte) violated the trust of the bank and its customers,” Assistant US Attorney Emily Limehouse, the lead prosecutor, told the jury in her closing argument, according to The State.
At the defense’s request, the judge agreed on Tuesday to allow Laffitte to serve his 84-month sentence at a medium-security federal facility in Jessup, Georgia – just about two hours from his family home, the Post and Courier said.
The Jessup prison has vocational programs and a substance abuse treatment plan that Laffitte can take advantage of, his defense team explained.
Inmates who complete the substance program, in particular, can have their sentences reduced, the Post and Courier said.
The former banker has vowed to appeal the sentence, the outlet added.
With Post wires
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