Federal prosecutors submitted a motion just hours before a scheduled teleconference in the Russell Laffitte financial crimes case seeking to prevent the disgraced banker from introducing audio evidence which may implicate others in an elaborate, extensive and long-running conspiracy to defraud potentially dozens of victims out of millions of dollars.
That conspiracy was purportedly organized by Laffitte and disbarred attorney/ accused killer Alex Murdaugh – although in recent weeks, there have been indications this scam went much wider and deeper than these two childhood friends from Hampton, South Carolina.
In fact, it seems abundantly clear at this point the repetitive, serial fleecings of clients of Murdaugh and his former law firm constitute criminal activity under federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes.
The problem? It remains unclear whether federal prosecutors – who are seriously conflicted in this case – are serious about getting to the bottom of it.
Or whether they want to pin the whole thing on Laffitte and be done with it …
As of this writing, Laffitte is the only person charged federally in connection with the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga. Meanwhile, both he and Murdaugh are facing a multitude of state charges related to the alleged fleecings.
Laffitte’s federal trial is scheduled to start on November 7, 2022 in Charleston, South Carolina.
As I reported earlier this month (here and here), Laffitte has in his possession audio recordings which point to a broader conspiracy in the financial crimes component of this case. Specifically, Laffitte’s recordings are said to expose the involvement of additional members of Palmetto State Bank (PSB) – the financial institution where Laffitte served as chief executive officer prior to his termination in January of this year – and potentially other attorneys at the Hampton, S.C.-based law firm formerly known as Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, P.A. (PMPED).
Murdaugh worked at PMPED for more than two decades prior to being fired last September.
The initial audio recording made by Laffitte reportedly centers around a controversial $680,000 payment made from PSB to PMPED. That payment was made in October of 2021 – not long after Murdaugh allegedly attempted suicide by hiring one of his check cashers, Curtis “Eddie” Smith, to shoot him in the head in a bizarre roadside incident that attracted international headlines.
Both Smith and Murdaugh have been charged with fraud in connection with that case …
This is just one of the recordings Laffitte has reportedly made, though. According to attorney Eric Bland, he was a “serial taper” as it relates to this case.
Of interest? Just days after our story about the first audio recording was published, a new civil lawsuit was filed in Hampton County, S.C. naming Alex Murdaugh, PMPED and two of Murdaugh’s former law partners – Ronnie Crosby and William F. Barnes III – as co-defendants.
Laffitte and PSB are also listed as defendants in that lawsuit – which revolves around another alleged fleecing of one of PMPED’s clients in a civil case.
In other words, exactly the sort of broader conspiracy Laffitte’s recordings purportedly point to …
Also of interest? Laffitte’s lawyers – former U.S. attorney Bart Daniel and former federal prosecutor Matt Austin – submitted a motion (.pdf) on Monday requesting the results of a “forensic investigation” of the former PMPED law firm which reportedly began on or about January 1, 2021.
Readers will recall PMPED claimed last October that it did not discover Murdaugh’s alleged criminal activity until September 2, 2021. As this news outlet has previously reported, though, a statewide grand jury was already probing Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes in late April of 2021.
Despite all of these incriminating connections, federal prosecutors do not want Laffitte’s tapes to see the light of day – at least not in the context of his current case.
“The government respectfully requests the court prohibit Laffitte from offering evidence or argument suggesting that he should be acquitted because others are more worthy of criminal prosecution,” the motion filed Friday morning by the office of U.S. attorney Adair Ford Boroughs.
The motion from Boroughs’ office was filed just hours before U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel was scheduled to hold a teleconference with prosecutors, defense attorneys and representatives of PSB regarding the admissibility of the tapes.
That conference call was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, according to my sources.
Laffitte was indicted by state prosecutors on multiple criminal conspiracy charges tied to his alleged role in the various Murdaugh-related fleecings. In late July, Laffitte was hit with a five-count federal indictment alleging bank fraud, wire fraud, misapplication of bank funds and conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.
Murdaugh has not been charged at the federal level, but at the state level he is currently facing 90 individual counts of alleged criminal activity involving “schemes to defraud victims” of nearly $9 million.
For weeks, I have been asking whether the conflicted federal investigation into the crumbling Murdaugh dynasty is “committed to comprehensive accountability – or whether it is intended to provide more institutional cover for the criminal network which allegedly propped up Murdaugh and Laffitte.”
“Laffitte was just taking marching orders,” a source familiar with the contents of the initial recording told me. “He trusted the firm.”
The case has also revived concerns about conflicts within Boroughs’ office.
Last October, I reported on a potential conflict of interest in the Charleston U.S. attorney’s office involving Carra Henderson – a special federal prosecutor who handles drug cases in partnership with the S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor’s office. Henderson’s father, Danny Henderson, is a workers compensation lawyer at the Hampton, S.C.-based Parker Law Group.
Last November, I reported on another conflict within the Charleston U.S. attorney’s office: Until March of 2021, assistant U.S. attorney Amy Bower worked for the law offices of Haynesworth Sinkler Boyd – the firm which has been representing Murdaugh in a high-profile wrongful death suit filed by the family of Mallory Beach.
Again, I am hopeful these conflicts will not inhibit full accountability in this case …
“Federal prosecutors could be preparing comprehensive, sweeping criminal indictments against a host of alleged co-conspirators in this case,” I noted two weeks ago. “Obviously, we wouldn’t know anything about that until the moment indictments dropped.”
Unfortunately, though, these latest developments would seem to reinforce the theory that the federal prosecution is more interested in providing “institutional cover for the criminal network which allegedly propped up Murdaugh and Laffitte” than it is in getting to the bottom of this case.
Hopefully, Boroughs and her prosecutors will disprove that theory …
THE FILING …Laffitte-21Oct2022
(Via: U.S. District Court)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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. And yes, he has many hats – including that Chicago Blackhawks’ lid pictured above.
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