An associate of disgraced former lawyer Alex Murdaugh has been indicted on charges that he helped launder and misuse funds.
Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte was charged by a federal grand jury on Wednesday on counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and bank fraud.
Prosecutors allege Laffitte schemed with Murdaugh to swindle two young sisters out of money they received after their mother and brother were killed in an accident in 2005.
The pair hatched the plan in 2011, while Laffitte worked as a conservator for sisters Alania Spohn and Hanna Plyer, and Murdaugh represented them.
Even though Laffitte was paid over $400,000 for watching over the sister’s money, they attempted to embezzle $990,000 for Murdaugh and $355,000 for Lafitte.
Russell Laffitte, CEO of Palmetto State Bank, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of charges he helped Alex Murdaugh swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars
Disgraced legal heir Alex Murdaugh arrived at a South Carolina court Wednesday for a hearing over last year’s brutal murders of his wife and son – as cops now claim they have a ‘mountain of evidence’ against him
Laffitte was fired from his role at the bank in January, and now faces up to 30 years behind bars if convicted. He’s also accused of misusing bank funds and granting Murdaugh a $750,000 loan for ‘beach house renovations and expenses,’ according to the grand jury, as well as illegally using his banks money to pay Murdaugh $680,000 to pay back a debt.
Murdaugh arrived at a South Carolina court Wednesday for a hearing over last year’s brutal murders of his wife and son, which saw the scion plead not guilty to the grisly double slaying.
The hearing also saw Murdaugh, 54, denied bond for the alleged crimes – with cops now claiming they have a ‘mountain of evidence’ against him, including cell phone and video footage of him talking to his wife moments before she was killed.
Asked how he pleaded to the felony murder charges, Murdaugh, who sported a jail-style buzzcut for the court appearance, confidently asserted: ‘Not guilty.’
When questioned by a prosecutor on how he will be tried, Murdaugh maintained, ‘By God and by country.’
The once-prominent lawyer looked gaunt during the court appearance, which was held to decide whether Murdaugh should be awarded bond for the double murder, which transpired on June 7 of last year.
Both sides agreed that a bond should not be awarded to the suspected killer, due to the fact that he’s already in jail on a $7 million bond for 74 other criminal charges – the lion’s share being an array of financial scams.
Murdaugh was filmed leaving Colleton County jail for the hearing before being carted back to jail Wednesday – more than a year after the lifeless bodies of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh on his estate in Hampton, Colleton County.
Murdaugh, 54, was filmed briefly leaving jail for a bond hearing over the two first-degree murder charges – more than a year after the lifeless bodies of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh on the family’s sprawling hunting estate in Colleton County
Murdaugh is pictured during his bond hearing at Colleton County Courthhouse Wednesday, during which the scion pleaded not guilty and was denied bond for the grisly double slaying
Murdaugh was denied bond by Judge Clifton Newman, the same judge who previously denied bond for him last October when the family of his former housekeeper accused him of stealing insurance money after her death
The hearing – which was held at 10 a.m. and lasted less than a half hour – saw Murdaugh denied bond by Judge Clifton Newman, the same judge who previously denied bond for him last October, when the family of his former housekeeper accused him of stealing insurance money after her death.
The once prominent lawyer was pictured leaving the Colleton County Courthhouse in chains – after being indicted last week on two counts of murder for the slayings.
Cops say Murdaugh shot Maggie, 52, with a rifle, and Paul, 22, with a shotgun at their Moselle property in June 2021. A motive for the slayings had yet to be determined.
Murdaugh, sporting a jail buzzcut, is pictured shortly after being denied bond for the two felony murder charges. The once-prominent lawyer looked to have lost a great deal of weight since being incarcerated in October for unrelated financial crimes
A handcuffed Murdaugh is pictured inside the Colleton County Courthouse shortly after he pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the murders
Murdaugh is led away in cuffs after being denied bond. When questioned by a prosecutor on how he will be tried, Murdaugh said, ‘By God and by country’
Murdaugh, 54, wore a wrinkled, white-button down and khakis for the hearing – his first in relation to the June 2021 murders
Murdaugh took off his mask to crack what seemed like a smirk while lawyer deliberated over the bond hearing
It is not known how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after more than a year of investigation, but a law enforcement source with close knowledge of the case said police have a multitude of damning evidence against the ex attorney
It is not known how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after more than a year of investigation, but a law enforcement source with close knowledge of the case told People police have a multitude of damning evidence against the ex attorney.
The source told the outlet Wednesday, shortly before the hearing, that investigators had proved Murdaugh was at the house when the murder took place due to blood spatter allegedly found on his clothes after cops arrived on the scene.
The evidence, if legitimate, contradicts Murdaugh’s claims that he had been visiting his father at a nearby hospital at the time of the murder, returning to find their bodies.
The source also said that Murdaugh’s cell phone, watch, and vehicle GPS also contradict those claims, People reported.
The outlet also added that investigators are adamant that Murdaugh lured his wife to the scene, under the guise he wanted her to accompany with her to visit his ailing father, with whom she was close.
The sources said that the couple – who had been influential figures in the South Carolina legal scene -had hit a rough patch in their marriage prior to the killings, and that Maggie at the time was staying at the family’s beach house on Edisto Island, roughly an hour away from the family’s estate.
The insider reportedly told People that Maggie at first declined requests from Murdaugh to meet at the family home, suggesting instead they meet at the hospital. After some convincing, however, she consented to meet at the home, saying she would follow Alex to the hospital in her car.
On her way to the home, Maggie allegedly messaged a friend to tell her she felt uneasy about the arrangement, and that she was worried that Murdaugh was ‘up to something.’
The texts, People reported, saw Maggie theorize that something about her husband’s behavior felt ‘fishy,’ with one of the messages flat-out declaring: ‘He’s up to something.’ The identity of the recipient of those texts was not identified at Wednesday’s hearing.
However, the most damning piece of evidence in lawmen’s possession, allegedly, is cell phone audio and video that the source said places Murdaugh at the crime scene ‘moments’ before the murder, talking with Maggie just before she was killed.
Murdaugh is pictured leaving the Colleton County Courthhouse in restraints immediately after the hearing, before being brought back to a local jail
The once prominent lawyer was pictured leaving the Colleton County Courthhouse in chains – after being indicted last week on two counts of murder for the killing
Murdaugh – who reportedly struggled with a debilitating opioid addiction in the months building up to the murder – was officially charged with their murders last week. The one-time legal scion was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
He is already behind bars on separate charges relating to embezzlement and fraud.
It has taken police roughly 13 months to level charges against Murdaugh- who is already behind bars on separate charges relating to fraud and embezzlement charges relating to the money he stole from his law firm and a failed attempt to stage his own murder as part of a $10million life insurance scam for his son in September.
Mere months after his wife and son were murdered, Murdaugh tried to stage his own death so that Buster, his 26-year-old surviving son, could reap the sum, but was criminally charged when the suicide-for-hire plot fell apart after the attempt failed and his hired hit man was arrested.
The incident, which transpired on September 4, was Murdaugh shot three times by 61-year-old Curtis Smith – one of the former legal eagle’s many clients – however, according to police, he only suffered a ‘superficial gunshot wound to the head’
Smith has since been charged with assisted suicide, aggravated assault, and battery related to the shooting. He is awaiting trial on those charges.
Murdaugh, meanwhile, was charged with conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and jailed the following month. His trial is also pending.
Murdaugh, whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were also top prosecutors South Carolina for nearly a century, ‘believed ending his life was his only option,’ his lawyers said at the time, citing his spiraling opioid addiction, which they said evaporated the blue blooded jurist’s net worth over the course of 20 years.
In the months following, investigators looking into Maggie and Paul’s deaths also uncovered a litany of crime and insurance fraud that have seen them reopen two suspicious deaths linked to the family
Thirteen months ago, Murdaugh told police he ‘found’ the bodies of his youngest son and wife outside a series dog kennels on the family’s 1,700 square feet hunting estate around 10pm on June 7, 2021.
In audio of the 911 call that he placed at 10:07pm that night, Murdaugh can be heard telling the dispatcher in a high-pitched screech: ‘I need the police and an ambulance immediately. My wife and child were just shot badly.’
Paul, 22, was shot twice with a shotgun – once in the head and once in the chest. Maggie had been shot multiple times with an assault rifle. Their gunshot wounds were believed to be consistent with ‘execution-style’ killings, reports said.
According to several sources, Paul’s body was found partially inside one of the kennels, while his mother’s was several feet away, leading investigators to believe that she ran from her killer before being gunned down.
At least two of her gunshot wounds were believed to have been inflicted while she was on the ground.
In audio of the 911 call, Alex Murdaugh, pictured with Maggie, Paul and surviving son Buster (far left) can be heard telling the dispatcher in a high-pitched screech: ‘I need the police and an ambulance immediately. My wife and child were just shot badly’
According to several sources, Paul’s body was found partially inside one of these dog kennels outside the family’s Hampton home, while his mother’s was several feet away, leading investigators to believe that she ran from her killer before being gunned down
Pictured: A gated entrance to the Murdaugh hunting lodge. The disgraced attorney had originally told investigators that he was visiting his dying father and his mother about 11 miles away at their home in Varnville at the time of the murders
In the immediate aftermath of the discoveries, Murdaugh’s family and attorneys vehemently defended the lawyer, who they asserted had a ‘ironclad alibi’ and that his marriage with Maggie was ‘full of love.’
However, Murdaugh’s ‘alibi’ was far from airtight, and has changed significantly since his initial claims that he was nowhere near the property between 9 and 9:30pm – the time the coroner gave the approximate time of death.
In the immediate aftermath of the crime, Murdaugh told investigators that he was visiting his dying father and his mother about 11 miles away at their home in Varnville at the time of the murders.
Two weeks later, his brothers John Marvin and Randy Murdaugh told Good Morning America that he had in fact dropped his father at a hospital in Savannah before going to visit his mother, who has dementia.
Now, according to an account given by Murdaugh’s lawyer Jim Griffin to The State newspaper, Murdaugh claims to have left the property around 9pm to make the 20-minute drive to his mother’s house and returned to Moselle as originally claimed around or shortly after 10pm.
It is an account that places him squarely on the scene within the timeframe of the killings.
It has been speculated that audio and video data gleaned from Paul’s cellphone found by his body, but only recently unlocked by law enforcement, is what prompted Murdaugh’s dramatic change of tune.
Independent local news website FITSNews has reported that not only does this audio and video data show Murdaugh speaking with Maggie, but that ‘high velocity impact spatter’ of blood found on his clothing that night places him at the scene of the murders when at least one of the victims was killed.
The Murdaugh family’s sprawling South Carolina property, where his wife and son were killed, was listed for sale in March. The massive Colleton County property is known as Cross Swamp Farm and houses two buildings, two waterfowl reservoirs, and has over 2.5 miles of river frontage that can be used for kayaking and fishing
The 1,700-acre hunting estate, which was in Maggie’s name at the time of her death, was recently sold for $3.9million, probate records seen by DailyMail.com reveal
When DailyMail.com put these claims to South Carolina Law Enforcement Department (SLED) last week, officials would neither deny nor confirm them.
Meanwhile, the marriage described by Harpootlian as ‘full of love’ was, according to multiple sources, anything but.
One source familiar with the household told DailyMail.com that Maggie and Murdaugh’s marriage was a union in crisis.
Rumors that Murdaugh was having an affair with a fellow attorney have been widely circulated both locally and online.
And according to the source who spoke with DailyMail.com, there was ‘no love lost’ between the once loving couple.
In fact, the source said, in the months before her violent death, Maggie and Murdaugh had argued heatedly over finances.
Maggie, a stalwart of the South Carolina charity scene, had been socially embarrassed when a check written by her at a charity luncheon bounced.
It was just one of many incidents that saw her not only asking questions about the family’s finances but demanding answers.
The mysterious double murder, which sparked the beginning of the end for the prominent legal family, seems to be on the cusp of being resolved with Alex – who is already facing embezzlement charges relating to the money he stole from his law firm and a failed suicide-for-hire attempt as part of a $10million life insurance scam – expected to be charged in connection to the slayings this week
Murdaugh’s only surviving son, Buster, was photographed being comforted at the funeral for his mother and brother on June 11 last year
FITSNews also reported that Maggie was living separately from Murdaugh at the family’s home in Edisto Beach and that she had only gone to Moselle on the night of her death ‘reluctantly’ and on Murdaugh’s request.
Maggie was also reported to have had gone to see a divorce lawyer in the weeks before her murder, sparking speculation that she was threatening to call in a forensic accountant, according to People magazine.
At the same time, Murdaugh was under extreme pressure to cough up his financial records as part of a wrongful death suit being brought against him and his older son, Richard ‘Buster’ Murdaugh, Jr, by the family of Mallory Beach – the teenager killed in an horrific boat crash in 2019.
Paul was drunk and at the wheel of the boat when it slammed into pilings on Archers Creek with six teens – all underage, all drinking heavily – aboard.
Murdaugh’s attorney had insisted his client had a ‘ironclad alibi’ and that his marriage with Maggie was ‘full of love,’ however, a very different picture has emerged casting doubt on both claims in recent months
Beach, 19, was thrown from the vessel and her body found by two fishermen one week later, five miles from the site. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma and drowning.
Legal documents seen by DailyMail.com show that lawyers for Beach’s family had repeatedly pressed Murdaugh for financial disclosure and set a court deadline of June 9 – just two days after Maggie and Paul’s murders – for him to hand over all relevant paperwork.
Back then, only Murdaugh knew that he was neck-deep in debts and, what prosecutors allege, was a multi-million-dollar insurance fraud scheme and criminal enterprise.
In the months following, investigators looking into Maggie and Paul’s deaths uncovered a litany of crime and insurance fraud that have seen them reopen two suspicious deaths linked to the family – former housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, 56, who fell after a ‘trip and fall’ at Moselle in 2018 and local teen, Stephen Smith, 19.
Satterfield’s sons said they were defrauded out of a $4.3million wrongful death suit brought against Murdaugh on his own advice and with the promise that they would be taken care of.
Instead, Murdaugh syphoned off the funds for himself, allegedly with the help of Corey Fleming, a former USC roommate and fellow attorney whom he recommended the Satterfield brothers use.
Fleming has also been charged for his part in the scheme.
SLED recently announced that it has received permission from Satterfield’s family to have her body exhumed.
Hampton County Coroner, Angie Topper, asked investigators to look at Satterfield’s death again due to ‘inconsistencies.’
These included the fact that her office was never informed, meaning no autopsy was conducted, and that the manner of death given on the death certificate – ‘natural’ – was not consistent with a trip and fall.
The unsolved case took a twist last September when Murdaugh claimed he had been shot in the head in a drive by shooting on this rural South Carolina road
It would later emerge that Murdaugh had hired Curtis Smith (left) as a hit man to kill him as part of a staged murder plot that would allow his surviving son Buster to collect $10million in life insurance money
Similarly, the manner of Smith’s death is once again the subject of investigation. The 19-year-old’s body was found on a road in Hampton County in July 2015 with a head wound so devastating that investigators first thought he had been shot.
DailyMail.com revealed that the incident was in fact initially investigated as a homicide but recategorized as a hit and run in the face of strong opposition from the lead investigator who was one of the first officers on the scene and found no evidence of any vehicular involvement.
In addition to this, 15 state grand jury indictments containing 79 charges have come down against Murdaugh with prosecutors claiming he defrauded a staggering $8.4million from victims.
The truly dire state of his financial affairs may go some way to explaining one of the most bizarre twists in this entire saga – Murdaugh’s failed ‘suicide-for-hire’ plot just three months after Maggie and Paul’s deaths, and one day after he resigned from the family’s Hampton-based law firm.
The firm, formerly known as Parker, Murdaugh, Parker, Elztroth & Detrick, or PMPED, stripped the Murdaugh name from their masthead in January and has since rebranded as the Parker Law Group.
The firm later claimed that Murdaugh misappropriated company funds and at least one of Murdaugh’s former colleagues is among the many bringing suits against him.
Then on September 4 last year, Murdaugh made his second frantic 911 call, this time to report that he had been shot while attempting to change a tire by the side of the road not far from Moselle.
From the start the story seemed odd, his injuries unconvincing and his description of the man so vague and contradictory that SLED chose not to release the artist’s impression that Murdaugh helped generate.
Once a prominent legal scion, Alex Murdaugh resigned from the family’s Hampton-based law firm in September. The firm later claimed that Murdaugh misappropriated company funds and at least one of Murdaugh’s former colleagues is among the many bringing suits against him
The South Carolina law firm (pictured) formerly known as Parker, Murdaugh, Parker, Elztroth & Detrick, or PMPED, stripped the Murdaugh name from their masthead in January and has since rebranded as the Parker Law Group
At the time of Paul’s death, the Murdaughs were facing a wrongful death lawsuit by the family of Mallory Beach, 19, (right)– who was killed in an horrific boat crash in 2019. Paul was drunk and at the wheel of the boat when it slammed into pilings on Archers Creek with six teens – all underage, all drinking heavily – aboard
Within two weeks, the whole affair had unraveled with Murdaugh claiming that he had hired a friend and distant relative Curtis ‘Eddie’ Smith, 61, to shoot him in the head so that his surviving son, Buster, could receive a $10million pay out form his life insurance.
He claimed that he had been in the throes of opioid addiction and had been for more than two decades and checked himself into rehab in Florida.
He was charged with insurance fraud and false reporting while Smith was charged on several counts including conspiracy.
He too has since been slapped with other charges relating to his relationship to Murdaugh, financial wrongdoing and drug trafficking.
Murdaugh is currently being held in Alvin S Glenn detention center in Richland County on a $7million bond.
He remains the only person ever named a person of interest in his wife and son’s death though, with murder charges apparently imminent, it is unclear whether they will be considered by a state grand jury in Columbia, or one in Colleton County, where Moselle, the scene of the crimes, sits.
TIMELINE OF MURDAUGH FAMILY MURDERS, DEATHS, LAWSUITS AND ARRESTS
Cops investigating the double murder have also reopened the case into a 2015 hit-and-run of teen Stephen Smith
Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Sattlerfield dies
Mallory Beach, 19, died in February 2019
2015: Teenager Stephen Smith dies
Smith was found on the side of the road.
Police officially rule his death a hit-and-run but he had suffered blunt force trauma to the head
His mother has since shared her belief that she thinks he was killed in a hate-crime because he was gay
Case notes obtained by DailyMail.com revealed Paul’s older brother Buster was named multiple times in the investigation.
Police wanted to know more about his relationship with Stephen
Stephen’s mother said he had been having a ‘fling’.
In a deposition years later, one of Paul’s friends said the family had ‘covered’ other killings up.
He mentioned Smith’s death.
2018: Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield dies
Gloria died after ‘falling’ down the stairs in the family house
The family gave her family $500.000 in a wrongful death settlement but it’s unclear why her death was ruled to be their fault.
Alex Murdaugh was listed as the defendant in the lawsuit.
Satterfield was only 57 when she died.
She left behind a husband and children.
Her death was also mentioned in the deposition by Paul Murdaugh’s friend.
2019: Mallory Beach dies being thrown from boat driven by Paul Murdaugh
Paul was charged afterwards because he’d been drinking and was behaving ‘belligerently’ that night.
He had been released on bond.
Other kids were on the boat but were unharmed.
One testified that they were scared to speak about the Murdaugh family because they knew how to ‘cover things up’.
That boy named Stephen Smith and the housekeeper, and claimed Paul pushed her
June 7 2021: Paul and Maggie are murdered
The mom and son were found shot dead at the family home in Hampton, South Carolina.
Alex Murdaugh says he found them at the home.
The medical examiner said the pair had been dead for an hour at most when he discovered them.
Alex’s son Paul, 22, (left) and wife Maggie, 52, (right) were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds on June 7 at the family hunting lodge
Alex’s father Randolph Murdaugh III died ‘peacefully’ at home three days after Maggie and Paul were found shot dead
June 10 2021: Alex’s 81-year-old father Randolph Murdaugh III dies ‘naturally’ and ‘peacefully’ at home
September 3: Alex resigns from his law firm amid claims he misused funds
The firm has hired a forensic investigator to go through the accounts
September 4: Alex calls 911 claiming he’s been shot in the head in a drive-by.
He only had ‘surface’ wounds and was also able to call his brother
September 6: Alex releases a statement confirming his resignation from the firm and announcing he has entered rehab
Says ‘I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated these murders.’