Helping Alex Murdaugh commit crimes is costly.
Prosecutors are asking a federal judge to order convicted ex-banker Russell Laffitte to pay $3.5 million in restitution for money he stole from his former bank, Palmetto State Bank, and Murdaugh’s former law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth and Detrick.
Of that total, Laffitte should pay $2,348,868 to his former bank in Hampton and $1,207,016 to the law firm, prosecutors said.
The restitution sought by federal prosecutors was made public Monday in court filings in U.S. District Court in South Carolina.
Laffitte, 52, is scheduled to be sentenced to prison Tuesday in federal court in Charleston by Judge Richard Gergel.
Prosecutors announced last week in a court filing they want Gergel to give Laffitte at least nine years in prison for committing multiple counts of fraud while helping Murdaugh steal money for years from Palmetto State Bank.
“(Laffitte) made tens of thousands of dollars for doing nothing but enabling Murdaugh to steal,” prosecutors wrote.
Laffitte’s lawyers oppose such a stiff sentence and ask for a sentence of three to five years in prison.
“Mr. Laffitte is deserving of both mercy and leniency. Because of his conviction, Mr. Laffitte’s career, at least with respect to banking, is finished,” Laffitte’s lawyers Mark Moor and Michael Parente wrote in a sentencing memo filed late Monday.
Laffitte’s lawyers continued to portray the ex-banker as a victim manipulated by Murdaugh, saying that for his “failures, he is deeply remorseful and ashamed. However, he did not knowingly conspire with Mr. Murdaugh to steal money from any of the victims.”
The lawyers also said they intend to present letters describing Laffitte “as a man with impeccable family values, high integrity, and pristine character. Moreover, many of these letters attest to numerous charitable and selfless acts that Mr. Laffitte has done for the community in Hampton County.” Laffitte still contends he is innocent despite his conviction, they said.
“Mr. Laffitte 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. Mr.Murdaugh was, at all relevant times, a practicing attorney and certainly understood the illegality of his own actions, while Mr. Laffitte had no legal training,” the defense memo said.
A federal jury in Charleston last November convicted Laffitte, former CEO of Palmetto State Bank, of six counts of financial crimes, including bank and wire fraud. Government witnesses testified that Laffitte and Murdaugh carried out elaborate theft schemes using the bank’s various accounts and procedures to hide the thefts.
Much of the stolen money came from settlement funds Murdaugh had won in lawsuits for various former clients, Murdaugh persuaded the banker to set up conservatorships for his former clients using the settlement money, which Murdaugh then plundered for his own use. Laffitte also profited off the scheme because he collected tens of thousands of dollars for overseeing the various conservatorships.
After the thefts became known, Murdaugh and Laffitte’s victims made claims against the law firm and the bank — claims which were paid. The $3.5 million in total restitution will go to compensate the law firm and the bank for claims they have paid, according to prosecutors’ memos.
The prosecutors are assistant U.S. attorneys Emily Limehouse, Kathleen Stoughton and Winston Holliday.
Murdaugh, convicted in March of the double murders of his wife, Maggie, and son Paul, is serving two consecutive life sentences for the killings. Charges against him for financial fraud at Laffitte’s bank are pending in both state and federal courts.