Russell Laffitte
Murdaughs

Sentencing Memorandums Filed Ahead of Russell Laffitte’s Sentencing Hearing

Laffitte’s attorneys argue “draconian” sentence recommendation is far greater than necessary

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Just one day before convicted fraudster Russell Laffitte is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel, a flurry of memoranda were filed by both prosecutors and defense attorneys relating to the climactic hearing.

Laffitte, 52, of Estill, S.C., was found guilty last fall of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud and three counts of misapplying bank funds in connection with his role in the various financial schemes of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.

The six charges Laffitte has been convicted of carry a prison sentence of up to thirty (30) years apiece, but given the way federal sentencing works the disgraced banker is realistically facing a maximum of three decades behind bars. Sources familiar with the federal sentencing process told this news outlet last fall they expected Laffitte to receive between eight to 14 years in a federal penitentiary. According to a pre-sentencing memo (.pdf) filed by prosecutors last week, the advisory guideline for Laffitte recommended a term of incarceration ranging anywhere from nine and 11.5 years.

Laffitte could get more time, though, as prosecutors made it clear in their memo they believe he has consistently fought to evade accountability for his actions – including arguing against the recommended sentencing guidelines.

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RESTITUTION …

A revised forfeiture request was filed by assistant U.S. attorneys Emily Limehouse, Winston Holliday and Kathleen Stoughton on July 23, 2023 amending the amount of restitution owed to Palmetto State Bank and the law firm formerly known as Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED). According to the request, after reviewing Laffitte’s objections to the restitution request and consulting with counsel the government sought a total restitution order of $3.56 million, including $1.2 million for PMPED and $2.35 million for PSB.

The breakdown of the restitution the Government is requesting Laffitte be ordered to pay to PMPED is as follows:

  • $175,122.54 – half of the amount stolen from Natasha Thomas
  • $154,790.73 – half the amount stolen from Hakeem Pinckney
  • $1,325,000 – the amount stolen from Arthur Badger
  • The conservator fees earned by Laffitte as conservator in the amounts of $60,000 (Pinckney), $15,000 (Thomas) and $35,000 (Badger)
  • The cost of the investigation into these accounts which totaled $122,102.87
  • The total amount will be offset by the $680,000 – the amount Palmetto State Bank paid PMPED.

The breakdown of the restitution the government is requesting Laffitte be ordered to pay to Palmetto State Bank is as follows:

  • $662,500 which is $680,000 (Unauthorized PSB Check to PMPED Totaling half of Badger Settlement Funds plus half of Laffitte’s PR Fee) offset by $17,500 (RLL Check to PSB for half of Laffitte’s PR Fee)
  • $500,000 which is for the $750,000 Unauthorized Sham Loan Laffitte Extended to Alex Murdaugh offset by $250,000 PSB Recovered from the sale of Murdaugh’s Green Swamp shares
  • $150,000 for the $500,000 line of credit extended by Laffitte to Murdaugh to cover his overdrafts. This amount is offset by the sale of Moselle.
  • The cost of the investigation into these accounts which totaled $706,455.39
  • $154,790.73 (Half of $309,581.46 Check Stolen from Hakeem Pinckney)
  • $175,122.54 (Half of $325,000 and $25,245.08 Checks Stolen from Natasha Thomas)

The pre-sentencing report filed by the Government noted “the Defendant (Laffitte) has assets totaling $10,514,652.00 and liabilities totaling $5,208,934.00. His assets include $6,257,393.00 in PSB stock. The court has the authority under the statute to order the Defendant to liquidate his stock ownership to satisfy the restitution order and forfeiture money judgment.”

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THE MEMO …

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LAFFITTE’S RESPONSE …

Judge Gergel agreed to unseal the sentencing memorandum – with redactions – after reporter Drew Tripp of WCIV TV-4 (ABC – Charleston, S.C.) filed a letter stating he believed the public had a right to see it. The 73-page document contained three dozen letters of support from family and friends. Some of these letters were redacted, others were included in their entirety.

Laffitte’s defense team argued he is “deserving of both mercy and leniency.” According to the filing, while Laffitte maintains his innocence and is appealing his sentence, he recognizes he committed grave errors in judgment.

“He has accepted responsibility for many of his actions, just not to the degree and in the way the government would like for him to do so,” the filing noted.

In a point that is unlikely to be challenged, the attorneys added that “because of his conviction, Mr. Laffitte’s career, at least with respect to banking, is finished.”

Regarding the sentencing enhancements requested by the Government, Laffitte’s attorneys objected to both the enhancement for sophisticated means and the application of the position of trust enhancement. Regarding the sophisticated means enhancement, his attorneys argued Laffitte did not employ sophisticated means as he did not know “there was a sophisticated scheme occurring and was simply acting is his role as a bank employee and was unfortunately taken advantage of by a bank customer.”

A similar argument was employed against the abuse of trust enhancement stating Laffitte (and his victims) did not know money was being stolen from the victim’s accounts by Murdaugh. They further claimed most of Murdaugh’s transactions did not need a bank manager to approve them and that Murdaugh abused his relationship with Laffitte by going directly to him for these financial transactions.

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RELATED | MURDAUGH LEGAL DRAMA

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Instead of sentence enhancements, Laffitte’s attorneys believe he should qualify for the mitigating role reduction of his sentence claiming “he did not understand the scope and structure of the criminal activity, did not plan or organize the criminal activity, did not have discretion, and did not know it was criminal, but rather acted at the behest of Mr. Murdaugh, and did not greatly profit off the scheme.” According to Laffitte’s attorneys, Laffitte is substantially less culpable than Murdaugh.

Laffitte’s attorneys state a downward variance in his sentence is appropriate based on what they believe to be substantial mitigating factors, including the belief that Laffitte is “extremely unlikely to recidivate based on his criminal history, his age, his family support, his ties to the community, and the fact that he will never again work in the banking industry.” They continue to argue that the sentence recommendation of 108 to 135 months is “draconian” and far greater than necessary.

In addition to his federal convictions, Laffitte is facing more than twenty state charges related to the Murdaugh saga. As for Murdaugh himself, he was criminally charged by the feds in late May of this year, sparking an ongoing battle between state and federal prosecutors over the disposition of the financial charges against him, Laffitte and another alleged co-conspirator, Cory Fleming – a former attorney from Beaufort, S.C.

Fleming has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. He is set to stand trial on those charges in September of this year, while Murdaugh is reportedly set to stand trial the following month.

Murdaugh admitted to most of the financial schemes involving Laffitte when he testified in his own defense in February at his double homicide trial in Colleton County, S.C. A jury found Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife and younger son on March 2, 2023 – and he was sentenced the following day to two consecutive life terms in prison by judge Clifton Newman.

Count on this news outlet to update our audience as soon as Laffitte receives his sentence tomorrow …

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DEFENSE SENTENCING MEMO …

(Via: U.S. District Court)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Jenn Wood (Provided)

Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at jenn@fitsnews.com.

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1 comment

Ralph Hightower Top fan August 2, 2023 at 10:21 pm

Bullsh*t! Laffitte let Murdaugh routinely overdraft his PSB account by hundreds of thousands of dollars with only a $5 overdraft fee! Bank of America charges $35 for each overdraft.

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