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Alex Murdaugh accomplice Russell Laffitte to be sentenced; Feds seek at least 10 years

For years, Palmetto State Bank officer Russell Laffitte decided who in Hampton County was worthy of getting loans from his family’s deep coffers, all the while making back-door deals with accused fraudster and convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh and helping himself to vulnerable people’s money.

On Tuesday, Laffitte, the disgraced and convicted heir to the century-old Laffitte banking mini-empire, will face the federal government and be sentenced for his crimes. Federal prosecutors are seeking to give him at least a decade in federal prison for his financial transgressions.

But Laffitte, convicted on multiple federal crimes, is pleading with the court for a reduced sentence, despite the fact that prosecutors say he is showing no remorse for his actions.

Here is what you need to know ahead of Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, which is set for 10 a.m. at the U. S. District Court House in Charleston.

Who is Russell Laffitte, and how is he connected to the Murdaugh crime saga?

Russell Laffitte, former Palmetto State Bank CEO, is a member of a South Carolina banking family that traces its roots back more than a century and owns banks in several S.C. Lowcountry counties.

In 2022, Laffitte was accused of bank fraud, conspiracy, and other crimes in connection with Alex Murdaugh’s decade-long, multi-million financial crime spree. He was terminated from the bank in January of 2022 then charged with state and federal crimes later that year.

On Nov. 22, 2023, Laffitte was convicted on federal charges that included bank and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit those frauds. His appeals have twice been denied.

Convicted and disgraced Hampton banker Russell Laffitte stands in the Hampton County Courthouse as, in the background, hangs a portrait of Alex Murdaugh's grandfather, Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr.

Convicted and disgraced Hampton banker Russell Laffitte stands in the Hampton County Courthouse as, in the background, hangs a portrait of Alex Murdaugh’s grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr.

What sentence is the federal government seeking for Russell Laffitte?

On July 27, federal prosecutors filed a 35-page sentencing memorandum requesting that Laffitte be sentenced to a term ranging from 108 to 135 months (9 years to 11.25 years). There is usually no option for parole or early release in federal prisons.

Here are some highlights from that extensive court filing:

  • Laffitte repeatedly shows “a continued unwillingness to accept any responsibility for his actions or acknowledge the harm his actions have inflicted on the victims,” say federal prosecutors.

  • The federal government claims that Laffitte and “his coconspirator Alex Murdaugh were held responsible for at least $3,784,368.98 in loss” from victims, but Laffitte disputes those numbers.

  • Laffitte and Murdaugh allegedly defrauded vulnerable people, including a “quadriplegic car accident victim livingin a nursing home,” cites the court filing.

  • Laffitte “used and abused his position of power and trust to exploit unusually vulnerable victims in a complex scheme of deception and concealment. And when faced with the inevitable discovery of his and Murdaugh’s scheme, the Defendant engaged in a desperate yet elaborate attempt to cover it up.”

  • Many of Murdaugh’s thefts would not have been possible without Laffitte’s assistance, say prosecutors. In fact, they go on to claim, Laffitte is the only person that could have stopped him.

  • Laffitte allegedly lied under oath four times and refuses to take responsibility for his actions, states the sentencing memorandum.

Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte, at right, walks into the H.C. Courthouse on Friday with his wife, Susie, followed by attorneys and family members.

Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte, at right, walks into the H.C. Courthouse on Friday with his wife, Susie, followed by attorneys and family members.

What is Russell Laffitte’s plan of defense?

Laffitte disputes the government’s calculations of the financial extent of his crimes, as well as calculations for how much prison time he is entitled to.

On July 31, Laffitte’s attorneys filed a motion with the federal courts seeking a “downward variance” in Laffitte’s prison sentence and financial compensation to victims.

Follow the Greenville News/USA Today’s coverage on this sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon. Follow Michael DeWitt’s reporting on the Murdaugh crime saga, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter at @mmdewittjr

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Alex Murdaugh saga: Russell Laffitte sentencing: Feds seek 10 years