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State Grand Jury Indicts Former Bank CEO Russell Laffitte. More Charges for Murdaugh and Fleming

Some of the stolen money was used to take a private plane to the 2012 College World Series in Nebraska …

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By LIZ FARRELL, WILL FOLKS and MANDY MATNEY

Former CEO of Palmetto State Bank Russell Lucius Laffitte has been indicted on 21 charges of conspiring with disgraced Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh to steal nearly $2 million, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money from the family of a deaf quadriplegic man who died in 2011, according to a news release Wednesday from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The announcement comes three weeks after Laffitte put his Varnville house on the market and ends months of speculation about whether he would face any consequences for apparently exploiting his role at the bank to assist Murdaugh in alleged schemes for more than a decade.

Also announced Wednesday were four new charges against Murdaugh and five new charges against suspended Beaufort attorney Cory Fleming — who is notably accused of using around $8,000 of the family’s stolen settlement money to fly himself, Murdaugh and another attorney on a private plane to the 2012 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.


All 30 charges were handed down by the state grand jury last month in three superseding indictments, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Two of the three superseding indictments focus on the Hakeem Pinckney case. Pinckney was a deaf man from Yemassee who became quadriplegic after a horrific car crash in 2009.

Pinckney died in 2011 when his ventilator became unplugged at a North August nursing home — just days after a settlement had been reached in his case, according to a wrongful death lawsuit later filed by Peters Murdaugh Parker Elztroth and Detrick attorney Lee Cope.

Hakeem’s mother Pamela Pinckney and cousin Natarsha Thomas were also severely injured in the crash. 

As FITSNews previously reported, Murdaugh, who was Hakeem’s attorney in the car wreck case, and his alleged co-conspirators apparently worked together — in a fashion similar to the Gloria Satterfield settlement scheme — to defraud the Pinckney family of money they received from a lawsuit Murdaugh filed on Hakeem’s behalf in 2010. 

The same players were also involved in this case — Murdaugh, Fleming and Palmetto State Bank.

Prior to today’s indictments, though, Murdaugh was the only person who had been indicted in the Pinckney case.

“It’s been a long time coming. The Pinckneys have waited over a decade for things to be made right. If people didn’t get it before, they should get it now. No stone will be left unturned,” Pinckney family attorney state Rep. Justin Bamberg told FITSNews on Wednesday.

Reached for comment Wednesday, Laffitte’s attorney Matt Austin provided this statement: “Russell Laffitte has been cooperating throughout the investigation while maintaining his innocence. We intend to fight the charges vigorously and look forward to our client having his day in court.”

Fleming’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.

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The Indictments

The first superseding indictment charges Laffitte, 51, and Fleming, 53, with one count of criminal conspiracy for allegedly working with 53-year-old Murdaugh to steal $350,245.08 from Natarsha Thomas’ trust.

Murdaugh is accused of convincing Pamela Pinckney that she needed to hire Fleming — who is Murdaugh’s best friend and godfather to his son Buster — when they sued a tire company for the 2009 car accident that left Hakeem paralyzed from the neck down. 

The same Murdaugh-Fleming pairing has been employed multiple times over the years — including in the Satterfield case and after the 2019 boat crash involving Murdaugh’s son Paul.

The second superseding indictment accuses Murdaugh and Laffitte of stealing $309,581 from the estate of Hakeem Pinckney on December 21, 2011, just months after Hakeem died and days before the Pinckney family’s first Christmas without Hakeem.

The money was allegedly stolen to pay back loans the two had taken from another client of Murdaugh, for whom Laffitte served as conservator.

Murdaugh and Fleming are also charged with criminal conspiracy “for allegedly conspiring to surreptitiously misappropriate to Murdaugh $89,133.44 in funds Fleming held in trust as attorney for Pamela Pinckney,” according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Hakeem Pinckney

The second superseding indictment also accuses Fleming of using $8,078 from Pamela Pinckney’s trust to take himself, Murdaugh and another attorney on a private jet for the 2012 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

According to the second indictment, Fleming is accused of “misappropriating to Murdaugh $4,560 in funds Fleming held in trust as attorney for Pamela Pinckney, under the false and fictitious guise of unspecific case expenses.”

Murdaugh is charged with two counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent and two counts of computer crimes for Hakeem Pinckney’s case.

The money stolen from the Pinckney family was supposed to go toward massive medical bills they endured after two years of Hakeem breathing through a ventilator.

According to Bamberg, Pamela Pinckney endured over 10 surgeries to fix her leg injuries and Natarsha Thomas is blind in one eye from the 2009 crash.

“That’s blood money is what it is. Hakeem Pinckney, Pamela Pinckney and Natarsha Pinckney bled to receive that compensation,” Bamberg told FITSNews this week.

The third superseding indictment charges Murdaugh and Laffitte of conspiring to steal $1,325,000 in funds controlled by Laffitte at Palmetto State Bank in Allendale County on behalf of Arthur Badger, whose wife was killed in a 2011 vehicle crash.

The funds were stolen “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.”

The final indictment charges Laffitte as “an aider and abettor” to Murdaugh in 12 breach of trust counts in the Allendale case.

“In his role as a bank executive, Laffitte intentionally enabled Murdaugh to conduct transactions to further Murdaugh’s schemes that should have never been conducted,” the indictment read.

What’s Next …

A bond hearing has been scheduled for around 9:30 a.m. Friday in Judge Alison Lee‘s virtual courtroom.

Though it’s expected that Laffitte will turn himself in to law enforcement, a timeline has not been provided to FITSNews. It is unclear whether Fleming has made arrangements to turn himself in.

Murdaugh has been detained at the Richland County Detention Center since October 2021. He is being held in lieu of a $7 million bond set by Judge Alison Lee in December 2021.

He remains the only publicly named person of interest in the June 2021 murders of his wife and son. Last week FITSNews exclusively reported that high-velocity impact spatter from one of the victims was found on Murdaugh’s shirt the night of the killings, which places him at the scene at the time one or both of his family member’s were shot.

So far, Murdaugh faces 82 charges — 79 from his alleged financial crimes and three from a bizarre roadside shooting incident Labor Day weekend. He is accused of stealing $8,492,888.31. He faces more than 700 years in prison.

Fleming was first indicted in March on 18 charges related to his alleged role in the Satterfield case. He stands accused of stealing $3,725,203.85 from two sets of clients. He faces up to 207 years in prison.

Laffitte — who, much like Murdaugh, hails from an influential Hampton County family who has held power there for generations — is accused of stealing a total of $1,832,772.30. He faces up to 140 years in prison.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Provided)

Liz Farrell is the new executive editor at FITSNews. She was named 2018’s top columnist in the state by South Carolina Press Association and is back after taking a nearly two-year break from corporate journalism to reclaim her soul. Email her at [email protected] or tweet her @ElizFarrell.

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Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to address proactively? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR..

Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to [email protected].

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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WANNA SOUND OFF?

Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to address proactively? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.

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