CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Russell Lucius Laffitte with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and misuse of bank funds.
The indictment alleges that Laffitte conspired with a bank customer to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. The indictment alleges that during the conspiracy, Laffitte was an employee, officer, or director of Palmetto State Bank (“PSB”), and the bank client worked as a personal injury attorney at a law firm. lawyers in Hampton, South Carolina. Laffitte and the bank customer engaged in a scheme to defraud the bank customer’s personal injury customers under materially false and fraudulent pretenses and by making materially false statements. Laffitte and the bank client conspired to obtain money from the clients of the bank client and the law firm, money which was held by PSB.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that Laffitte – while serving as custodian for the bank’s personal injury client’s clients – granted him $355,000 in personal loans and $990,000 in personal loans. to the bank customer from funds held at PSB and belonging to personal injury customers. Laffitte knew that the funds lent to the bank client were used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of overdraft in the bank client’s personal account. The indictment further alleges that Laffitte knew the bank customer had used funds stolen from other customers for personal injury to repay the loans. Laffitte, as the restorer or personal representative of the personal injury clients, received disbursement checks from the law firm and then negotiated and distributed the funds according to and according to the client’s instructions from the bank. At the request of the bank’s client, Laffitte transferred the disbursed settlement funds in the form of bank orders, cash and other electronic transfers. The indictment alleges that Laffitte received $391,781.07 in fees for his duties as curator and personal representative.
The indictment further alleges that on two occasions Laffitte, as an officer and director of PSB, deliberately misappropriated bank funds. Specifically, on October 28, 2021, Laffitte paid the law firm $680,000 without notice or consent from PSB, knowing that he had fraudulently transferred the money to the bank client. Finally, the indictment alleges that on July 15, 2021, Laffitte willfully misappropriated $750,000 in bank funds by providing a business loan to the bank’s client, knowing that the loan was essentially unsecured and that the proceeds of the loan would and was used to pay a lawyer and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of overdraft in the bank client’s personal account. Laffitte faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years on all counts.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”) and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Assistant US Attorney Emily Limehouse is pursuing the case.
U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis said all charges in the indictment are charges only and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.