The tangled web woven by convicted killer Alex Murdaugh is continuing to unravel for his co-conspirators. After learning their fates in federal court earlier this month, convicted fraudster Russell Laffitte and disgraced attorney Cory Fleming are due in Kingstree, South Carolina on Wednesday (August 23, 2023) for a status hearing on their state charges in front of circuit court judge Clifton Newman.
Both Laffitte and Fleming have been charged with assisting Murdaugh in multiple fleecings – depriving victims of millions of dollars.
According to attorney Eric Bland of Lexington, S.C., Fleming will be pleading guilty at the Kingstree hearing to at least some of the state charges filed against him. Bland added Fleming’s state sentencing would be scheduled at a later date.
Fleming’s attorney, Deborah Barbier of Columbia, S.C. declined to confirm reports of a plea deal, saying she could not comment on tomorrow’s hearing until it had concluded.
At this point, it is unclear whether Laffitte – who is currently appealing his federal convictions – also plans to plead guilty to the state charges he is facing.
Laffitte – the former chief executive officer of Palmetto State Bank (PSB) – was sentenced to seven years in federal prison on August 1, 2023 for his role in facilitating the financial schemes of Murdaugh. Laffitte was also ordered to pay $3.56 million in restitution.
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A motion (.pdf) filed in federal court last week indicated Laffitte had received his “designation letter” from the U.S. Marshals Service – notifying him he must report to them no later than 12:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday September 14, 2023. Laffitte was granted a one-week extension by the government and is now scheduled to report on September 21, 2023. In addition to his federal convictions, Laffitte is facing more than twenty state charges related to the Murdaugh saga.
Fleming — a former Beaufort, S.C. attorney – reached a deal with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud earlier this year. U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel sentenced Fleming to forty-six months in federal prison last week for his “amazingly egregious conduct” in a scam that robbed Murdaugh’s insurers of nearly $4 million following the death of his family housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. Fleming was also a cog in a criminal conspiracy that stole settlement funds from the mother of deaf quadriplegic Hakeem Pinckney.
Unlike Laffitte, Fleming opted to begin his federal sentence immediately and was taken into the custody by U.S. Marshals following the sentencing hearing.
Fleming is facing nineteen state charges related to the Satterfield scheme. Barring a plea, he is set to stand trial on those charges on September 11, 2023 in Beaufort, S.C.
Gergel indicated he took Fleming’s state charges into account in setting his federal sentence – noting the state had its own “agenda” in seeking to punish him.
The “agenda” Gergel referenced became evident soon after Murdaugh was criminally charged by the feds in late May of this year. That indictment sparked an ongoing battle between state and federal prosecutors over the disposition of the financial charges against him, Laffitte and Fleming.
State prosecutors issued a blunt statement after the federal charges were filed against Murdaugh setting the stage for what some legal analysts referred to as a “textbook political pissing contest.”
“The financial allegations in this case involve alleged abuse of state lawyer licenses dealing with state court legal actions before state court judges, with alleged misappropriation of state court approved settlements,” the statement noted. “The South Carolina attorney general’s office and the State Law Enforcement Division have occupied a primary and central role in this investigation from inception, and no action by any other entity will have any effect on our goals to ensure significant accountability in state court for any criminal conduct.”
Murdaugh has yet to stand trial at the state or federal level for any of the financial crimes of which he is accused. Worth recalling? He admitted to most of the financial schemes involving Laffitte and Fleming when he testified in his own defense in February of this year at his double homicide trial in Colleton County, S.C. A Colleton 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 Newman.
Count on this news outlet for full coverage of the status hearing and to continue to keep our audience in the loop on all the major developments in these various Murdaugh-related prosecutions and civil cases.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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 [email protected].
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