On the second day of testimony in the trial of former banker and associate of Alex Murdaugh, Russell Laffitte, a bank executive testified about how thousands of dollars were “stolen” from accounts managed by Laffitte.
They included payments made to the family of Laffitte and Murdaugh and to buy a boat for Murdaugh.
Laffitte is on trial for federal charges of bank and wire fraud.
A dramatic moment came when prosecutor Winston Holliday asked Palmetto State Bank board member and Laffitte’s cousin Norris Laffitte how the board ultimately fired Laffitte, then the bank’s CEO and his favorite son. father, Charlie Laffitte, the President of the Council
For several minutes Norris Laffitte – seemingly overwhelmed by the memory of having to take drastic action against one of his relatives at the family bank – held back tears and could not speak. He took a sip of water and continued to be silent.
Finally, Norris Laffitte spoke about the duties of a custodian and how the custodian is responsible to the bank, to the shareholders and “to look after the entities for which he is responsible”.
He checked off a list of more than a dozen checks and payments totaling more than $1 million to others Laffitte had approved of three trustees he was responsible for: Hakeem Pinckney, Malik Williams and Arthur Badger.
“I’m just baffled by the whole thing,” said Norris Laffitte at the helm of the Charleston federal courthouse. “We had to get rid of him. He lied to the board. We asked, ‘How many times has this happened?’ He said, ‘Once or twice.’
“My God, you had the two Plyler girls, Malik, Hakim, Natasha,” Norris Laffitte said. “I don’t know if I still have them all.”
Palmetto State Bank board member Norris Laffitte described a dramatic discovery of missing money across multiple accounts in late 2021 that led to Laffitte’s removal as CEO of Palmetto State Bank.
Shortly before, Laffitte had sent an e-mail to the administrators saying: “We have found two other colonies which have been stolen.
“Are you saying other conversions have taken place along the same lines as Badger?” Norris Laffitte responded, referring to a previous case of money going missing from one of Laffitte’s accounts. “How many more are there?” »
The money Laffitte withdrew from various accounts includes $10,000 sent to the account of Maggie Murdaugh, Murdaugh’s late wife. Another $920 was transferred to Murdaugh Charters. Norris Laffitte testified that he believed the money was to pay off a loan Murdaugh took out on a boat.
Murdaugh is now charged with the murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, as well as various financial schemes he allegedly participated in with Laffitte.
Norris Laffitte testified that another $3,000 was sent to Murdaugh Charters on the same day as the other check. Another $100,000 was sent to Charles Laffitte, chairman of the board and Laffitte’s father. Norris Laffitte testified that Laffitte told him the money, taken from the account he was overseeing for a crash victim, was to pay off a loan his father had made to Murdaugh.
Defense attorney Matt Austin argued in cross-examination that Laffitte was within his rights as the bank’s CEO and custodian to effect transactions.
“It’s not up to anybody else saying it’s OK,” Austin said, citing the bank’s own bylaws.
On January 7, 2021, Palmetto State Bank’s board of directors held a special meeting during which it severed its relationship with Laffitte. Only his father, Charles Laffitte, then chairman of the board, voted against.
Laffitte’s sister abstained, Norris Laffitte testified on Tuesday.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.