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Hakeem Pinckney Case: Attorney Finds ‘Very Disturbing’ Paper Trail Of ‘Blood Money’

“How was it that Charlie Laffitte Jr., the CEO of the bank, the chair of the Palmetto State Bank board, how did he get $100,000 of my clients’ money?”

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Attorney and state representative Justin Bamberg has recently obtained a “disturbing” paper trail of evidence while investigating what happened to the “life-changing” amount of money that was stolen from the Pinckney family.

Bamberg told FITSNews that photocopies of checks revealed more information about where the stolen funds that were supposed to go to his clients went — and who Alex Murdaugh‘s alleged “associates” were in the scheme to steal nearly $1 million from Hakeem Pinckney‘s family.

“What we found was very disturbing, and quite frankly, leads us to wondering, again, how did no one catch this?” Bamberg said. “I mean, it’s somewhat of a version of a Ponzi scheme or something like that.”

Hakeem Pinckney was paralyzed in a catastrophic car wreck before his mysterious death in 2011. Hakeem’s mother Pamela and cousin Natarsha were also severely injured in the 2009 crash, which resulted in a large lawsuit against a tire company.

“Blood money… is what it is,” Bamberg told FITSNews this week. “Hakeem Pinckney, Pamela Pinckney and Natarsha Pinckney bled for that money.”


As FITSNews previously reported, Alex Murdaugh and his alleged co-conspirators apparently worked together — in a fashion similar to the Gloria Satterfield settlement scheme — to defraud the Pinckney family of funds gained from a lawsuit they filed on Hakeem’s behalf in 2010. 

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

On Wednesday, Murdaugh, Fleming, and former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte were all indicted on multiple charges related to the Pinckney case.

Three weeks ago, Laffitte put his Varnville house on the market. The charges end 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.

Earlier this week, Bamberg discovered that checks from funds misappropriated from the Pinckney case were not only made to Russell Laffitte, but his father Charles Laffitte Jr., who is a board member and also a former CEO at Palmetto State Bank.

In fact, a $100,000 money order was given to Charles Lafitte. According to Bamberg, that money came from the Pinckney estate.

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Notes on back of check say loan. Money order signed by Russell and deposited on 12/29/2011.

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Also shocking? Former 14th Solicitor Randolph Murdaugh III, Alex’s father who died days after Maggie and Paul Murdaugh’s murders in June, received a large sum of money that was stolen from the Pinckney estate, too, according to Bamberg.

Specifically, a $329,500 money order from the stolen funds was given to Randolph Murdaugh III.

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Bamberg said as an attorney who grew up in the area, seeing that money order made to Randolph Murdaugh III, who was an assistant solicitor at the time, was “disheartening.”

Bamberg also discovered a $10,000 checking deposit made to Maggie Murdaugh and about $4,000 made to “Murdaugh Charters,” an LLC owned by Alex Murdaugh.

Those funds were allegedly stolen from the Pinckney estate on December 21, 2011 — just 4 days before they were about to endure their first Christmas without Hakeem. 

Hakeem Pinckney, a deaf man who was a recognized athlete at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, suffered atrocious injuries in the crash that paralyzed him from the neck down and made him dependent on a ventilator for two years starting in 2009.

After being released from the ICU at MUSC months after the accident, Hakeem was placed into Pruitt Health North Augusta, a long-term care facility at which he was making strides to regain some function. His mother noted that six months before passing away, he was conscious, could communicate and could breath on his own for short periods of time.

That lawsuit — which allowed Murdaugh and his conspirators to allegedly steal around $1 million from Hakeem’s family, settled on October 7, 2011, according to court documents.

Just four days later, Hakeem’s ventilator was apparently left unplugged for 30 minutes before Pruitt Health-North Augusta employees noticed.

“To know that you put your trust and your emphasis in someone who says they have your best interest in mind, and looks you in your face, and tells you and your entire family that they have your best interest — that you got us 100 percent,” Pamela Pinckney previously told FITSNews. “And then you go and you steal from us, even though you got paid through legal fees to work the case, then you turn around and you steal on top of that from the family. And my son is deceased. That really it tears me apart literally every day.”

The paper trail discovered recently by Bamberg raises many questions about Palmetto State Bank’s — and Murdaugh family members’ — involvement with Alex Murdaugh’s alleged scheme.

“How was it that Charlie Laffitte Jr., the CEO of the bank, the chair of the Palmetto State Bank Board, how did he get $100,000 of my clients’ money?” Justin Bamberg asked.

How is it that no one at the bank caught this?

How is it that no federal regulators caught this?

And how many people knew about this and did nothing for more than a decade?

Bamberg is still investigating as he prepares to file a lawsuit against Palmetto State Bank.

“As an attorney, as a professional, as somebody who tries to live and be a good person, I don’t understand how people did this,” Bamberg said.


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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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