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 misapplication 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 served as an employee, officer, or director of the Palmetto State Bank (“PSB”), and the bank customer worked as a personal injury attorney at a law firm in Hampton, South Carolina. Laffitte and the bank customer engaged in a scheme to defraud the bank customer’s personal injury clients under materially false and fraudulent pretenses and by making materially false representations. Laffitte and the bank customer conspired to obtain money from the bank customer’s personal injury clients and the law firm, money which was held at PSB.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that Laffitte – while serving as conservator for the bank customer’s personal injury clients – extended $355,000 in personal loans to himself and $990,000 in personal loans to the bank customer from funds held at PSB and belonging to the personal injury clients. Laffitte knew that the funds loaned to the bank customer were used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdraft on the bank customer’s personal account. The indictment further alleges that Laffitte knew that the bank customer used funds stolen from other personal injury clients to pay back the loans. Laffitte, as conservator or personal representative for the personal injury clients, received disbursement checks from the law firm, then negotiated and distributed the funds according to and at the bank customer’s direction. At the bank customer’s direction, Laffitte transferred the disbursed settlement funds into bank money orders, cash, and other wire transfers. The indictment alleges that Laffitte collected $391,781.07 in fees for serving as conservator and personal representative.
The indictment further alleges that on two occasions, Laffitte, as an officer and director of PSB, willfully misapplied bank funds. Specifically, on October 28, 2021, Laffitte paid the law firm $680,000 without notice to or consent from PSB, knowing that he had fraudulently transferred the money to the bank customer. Last, the indictment alleges that on July 15, 2021, Laffitte willfully misapplied $750,000 of bank funds by extending a commercial loan to the bank customer knowing that the loan was essentially unsecured and that the loan proceeds would be and were used to pay an attorney and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdraft on the bank customer’s personal account. Laffitte faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years on all charges.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”), and South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Limehouse is prosecuting this case.
U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis stated that all charges in the indictment are merely accusations and that the Defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.