With his legal maneuvers exhausted, convicted South Carolina fraudster Russell Laffitte finally reported to federal prison last week – arriving at the Federal Correctional Complex Coleman (FCC Coleman) in central Florida on Thursday September 28, 2023 to immediately began his quarantine and evaluation period.
The disgraced banker – who conspired with convicted killer Alex Murdaugh on multiple fraud schemes – was convicted of six white collar counts last November and sentenced to seven years in prison on August 1, 2023.
Laffitte is seeking a new trial following some questionable jury moves at the end of his federal proceedings, but the U.S. fourth circuit rejected his bid to remain a free man while his appeal moves forward.
In addition to his federal convictions, Laffitte is facing more than twenty state charges related to the Murdaugh saga – the dramatic unspooling of a Hampton, S.C.-based legal dynasty that has shaken the Palmetto State’s legal system to its core.
The former chief executive officer of Palmetto State Bank (PSB), Laffitte profited from helping Murdaugh rip off multiple clients – and then helped Murdaugh cover his tracks with loans that never should have been issued and payouts that never should have been made. The end result? Millions of dollars stolen from vulnerable recipients … most of which wound up in Murdaugh’s pocket.
While others have come clean regarding their role in these fleecings – including Murdaugh and his longtime friend and admitted co-conspirator, Beaufort, S.C. attorney Cory Fleming – Laffitte has steadfastly protested his innocence and fought accountability for his actions at every step of the way.
Hence his arrival last week in sunny central Florida last week at the nation’s largest correctional institution.
FCC Coleman is not a single prison, incidentally it is a sprawling correctional complex containing five individual prison facilities: Two high-security penitentiaries, a medium security prison, a low-security prison and an adjacent minimum security camp. The camp used to house female inmates, but recent scandals – including a sex scandal involving guards and female inmates – resulted in it being transitioned to a minimum security facility for male inmates.
Located near the town of Wildwood in Sumter County, Florida, Coleman is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) – a division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The complex sits on approximately 1,600 acres of land located approximately 50 miles northwest of Orlando.
Contrary to reports that he is being held in the low-security prison, Laffitte is actually being held in the former women’s facility. It is located in the southwest corner of the complex on the satellite image below …
(Click to view)
Below is a closer look at the camp portion of the complex, with Laffitte being held in the large, four-wing complex resembling the shape of a B-2 bomber …
(Click to view)
On the day Laffitte reported – September 28, 2023 – Coleman’s camp facility had a population of 441 inmates according to the latest BOP statistics. That’s approximately seventy inmates shy of its maximum capacity. The total population of the complex stood at 6,259 – making it the largest prison system in the United States – although its numbers are down significantly from their peak in the early 2000s. Approximately 1,500 employees work at Coleman.
Just how “minimum” is the security at the camp where Laffitte is serving his time?
Some of these details might surprise you … but there are no fences surrounding the camp, its doors are typically unlocked, there is limited monitoring of surveillance cameras and its inhabitants are pretty much allowed to move freely inside (and outside) of the facility.
“(There are) no fences,” a source familiar with the inner workings of complex told us. “Walk around wherever you want to go. They call it a camp. There are no fences and he could literally walk right off the property through the woods if he wanted to. The doors are never locked. They don’t even lock the doors at night.”
Some inmates are even granted access to government vehicles which they drive in and around the complex.
“Guards leave all they time,” our source added. “They’re not supposed to, but they do.”
What keeps them from fleeing the facility? According to our insider, consequences … specifically, the threat of additional time in less hospitable environs.
“If you walk off and don’t come back and/ or get caught, it is an additional four year sentence CONCURRENT and you will be moved to a medium security facility which is god fucking awful,” they said. “It’s a reward system. That’s why no one tries to escape.”
RELATED | RUSSELL LAFFITTE GETS HIS PRISON DATE
In addition to the lax security – which includes out-of-date, seldom-monitored security cameras – inmates looking to hatch an escape plot would benefit from other advantages.
“(Guards) do not monitor outgoing mail and they rarely look at incoming mail,” our insider confirmed, adding that “they aren’t even recording the phone calls from the camp.”
Again, though … those who decide to run cannot risk getting caught. So their escape plans had better be foolproof.
So … how is Laffitte’s stay at “Club Fed” progressing?
After a brief period in quarantine, Laffitte was reportedly placed in the general population of the camp this week and given his dormitory and initial work assignment. Within forty-eight hours of arriving at the facility, he would have been granted access to phone and email.
Laffitte will be assigned initially to the kitchen at the camp. A more permanent placement will be made after he completes his orientation process.
While inside the unit – and after 4:00 p.m. ET – Laffitte will be clad in his grey, prison-issued uniform or a grey sweatsuit, depending on the weather. While outside the facility – or during his work assignment – Laffitte will wear a green prison-issued uniform. Laffitte’s housing unit consists of four interconnected dorms (F1-F4). Each dorm has a maximum inmate count of 128 – with inmates assigned to numbered, two-bed cubicles. Each cubicle has a window that opens with a screen.
Laffitte and his fellow inmates are counted five times a day during the week: At midnight, 3:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. There is an additional 10:00 a.m. count on Saturday – and inmates are also counted when they report to their work assignment.
Other than their work assignments and scheduled counts, inmates are pretty much allowed to come and go as they please within the facility – including moving from dorm to dorm and going outside.
Inmates at Laffitte’s camp have access to a running track, tennis courts and a weight room. In addition to the breakfasts, lunches and dinners they are served from the local cafeteria, inmates have access to treats like cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, ice cream and slushees.
Dinner staples include chili cheese fries, hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza and lasagna – although if Laffitte requests a special diet he can have access to beef tenderloin and salmon.
(Click to view)
To work all that food off, they can exercise on elliptical machines, treadmills or participate in yoga classes.
Needless to say, there is plenty of downtime for inmates at the camp.
“He can watch television as late as he wants in one of the rooms,” our insider said. “There are movies that play from Friday to Sunday every weekend and they have full cable with their choice of channels. There is a television schedule where groups of people block off certain rooms for particular shows. He can email until 11:00 p.m.”
Of course, that’s just the sanctioned email activity. Contraband cellphones are rampant within the complex – with dozens of inmates using them to send emails, text messages as well as messages on Facebook accounts they manage from their mobile devices.
Whether he supplements his prison-authorized communication with a burner, Laffitte will also get to stay in contact with his friends and family directly.
“Visitation is every other weekend – Saturday and Sunday – and it is full contact visitation and there are vending machines with dinners and snacks and drinks,” our insider related. “There is a kids room as well as an outdoor patio.”
Many of you reading this are no doubt wondering whether this is a prison sentence or an extended vacation – with good reason. According to our insider, though, the freedom, flexibility and amenities afforded to Laffitte and his fellow inmates isn’t everything it seems to be.
“Don’t be fooled – it sucks,” our source said. “It is no cake walk. The separation and isolation is what gets to people. It’s not as great as it sounds. They do mistreat those people. I promise you it is no walk in the park and he will suffer there.”
Stay tuned to this news outlet for additional reports on Laffitte’s term of incarceration as we receive updates from our insiders at FCC Coleman …
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 (soon to be eight) children.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? 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.