‘He was being dishonest with us’: Witnesses testify in trial of alleged Murdaugh conspirator

Witnesses took the stand Thursday in the third day of the trial of a former Lowcountry bank CEO to testify about allegations that he was involved in a fraud plo
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 4:57 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2022 at 7:06 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Witnesses took the stand Thursday in the third day of the trial of a former Lowcountry bank CEO to testify about allegations that he was involved in a fraud plot.

Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of the Palmetto State Bank, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and misapplication of bank funds after being accused of helping former Lowcountry attorney Murdaugh and suspended attorney Cory Fleming divert nearly $2 million from clients.

Current bank CEO Jan Malinowski started Thursday off on the witness stand. Federal prosecutor Emily Limehouse showed the jury multiple emails between Laffitte and the bank’s board of directors during her cross-examination.

An email between Laffitte and the board dated Oct. 29, 2021, established an emergency board meeting for the 31st after PSB grew suspicious of Murdaugh’s loans, calling for an investigation of the matters.

“The board thought it was important to investigate what transpired,” Malinowski said.

During the prosecution’s cross-examination, evidence was presented to show Russell’s signatures were all over the $750,000 July 2021 loans to Murdaugh while he was overdraft $300,000 on his account at PSB.

Defense attorney Bart Daniel asked Malinowski, “Do you think Murdaugh got special treatment at PSB?’

Malinowski said yes in response. He also said that before Murdaugh’s wife’s death in June of 2021, the board of directors never had any issues with his loans.

Limehouse continued the cross-examination of Malinowski after a lunch break, presenting Murdaugh’s loan statement history when he was charged with late fees. Malinowski agreed that the documents showed that Murdaugh did not pay his loans on time.

Malinowski was excused from the witness stand at approximately 2 p.m. and prosecutors called as their next witness Ronnie Crosby, a law partner at Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth & Detrick and 20-year colleague of Murdaugh, as their next witness.

When Limehouse asked Crosby about Laffitte and Murdaugh’s relationship, he said they were mutual acquaintances and friends.

“I think they were friends but not very close friends. They grew up near each other and knew one another all their lives,” Crosby said.

Crosby testified that the firm learned Murdaugh was stealing money in Sept. 2021 and fired him on Sept. 3 before starting a long investigation into his actions.

“He was being dishonest with us and the banker [Laffitte] was not being truthful as well,” he said.

Limehouse said after Crosby wraps up his testimony, they plan to call another PMPED attorney as well as Alania Spohn and Hannah Plyler, who filed suit against Laffitte and the bank alleging that Laffitte used money owed to them after their mother and 14-year-old brother died in a 2005 car crash for sweetheart loans to himself and Murdaugh.

PMPED has since rebranded itself as the Parker Law Group after parting ways with Murdaugh.

The trial will not continue Friday because of Veterans Day. It will convene again on Monday.