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SC sisters with money handled by Laffitte testify in fraud trial – InsuranceNewsNet

Of them Caroline from the south sisters who depended on the banker Russell Laffitte to manage hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuit settlement proceeds after losing their mother in a car accident gave often moving testimony against the former banker on Monday.

Alaina and Hannah Plyler were 12 and 8 years old when their mother and older brother died when a faulty tire caused the car they were traveling in to crash into a grove of trees. It took them years to recover from physical injuries, emotional distress and the unstable home life their mother’s death had sent them into, they said.

To provide them with financial assistance and stability, they turned to the man in charge of their legal settlement, then-State Bank of Palmetto executive Russell Laffitte.

On Monday, Laffitte began the second week of a federal trial in Charleston on bank and wire fraud charges.

The government accuses him of stealing money from the settlement funds of the Plylers and other accident victims whose finances he managed, and of using the money for his personal use and the use of Alex Murdaughone of the lawyers in the Plylers case.

Murdaugh has become a national sensation since being charged in the June 2021 murders of his wife and son.

Alaina, now 30, described Laffitte as a father figure who helped her buy a car and a house, who promised her enough money so she never had to work a single day of his life.

“I saw it as a bottomless pit,” she testified on Monday. “I could buy all the cars I wanted, have a nice house, and it would never run out.”

But she remembered that the banker was always vague about the exact amount of money she could expect to receive.

She and her sister had to apply for a regular stipend to cover their tuition and living expenses. When he bought her a used car, Alaina ended up paying high interest rates on a used car bought at auction, even though she felt hundreds of thousands of dollars should have been available in their account.

At the age of 18, Alaina said she remembered meeting Laffitte for the last time to receive a sheaf of documents she didn’t understand, then unceremoniously handing him control of the silver.

“I anticipated it would be all day, but I remember thinking the drive was longer than the whole meeting,” she said Monday.

The only time she said she heard of Laffitte after that day was when he needed to locate his underage sister Hannah, whose money he still controlled.

Laffitte is accused of embezzling money from the Plylers’ accounts when Murdaugh demanded money for his own use, including money to pay for Murdaugh’s boat and renovations to a family beach house .

When Alaina later lost this packet of papers in a house fire, she remembers receiving a “lighter” packet from Laffitte in the mail to replace it. She said she only received a full copy after Murdaugh was fired from his family law firm and charged with embezzlement.

Laffitte told him that he was sending it to him because it had also been requested by the State Law Enforcement Divisionshe says.

Hannah, now 25, said she was unaware that money had been transferred from her account and only received a set of similar documents explained to her. age of 18. at disney worldshe was told to continue basic spending on anything she couldn’t get a receipt for.

“It was tough for a little girl who just lost her mother and brother and was just trying to have a good time,” she said. “I feel like it should have been easy for us.”

FBI analyst explains how Laffitte moved money

A forensic analyst with the FBI testified that as early as 2011, Laffitte was transferring money from Hannah’s account to cover his own debts.

Between 2011 and 2015, when Hannah turned 18, Laffitte made more than a dozen transfers totaling a few $240,000 from his accounts to Murdaugh’s two checking accounts. Most of the time, Murdaugh topped those counts within weeks, FBI analyst Cyndra Swinson testified.

Swinson also testified that at one point attorney for the law firm Murdaugh John Parker gave a $400,000 loan to Laffitte which was used to facilitate the fast money transfers that Laffitte was designing.

In September 2011Laffitte retires $225,000 from Hannah’s account to her own account, and repaid two outstanding loans $92,000 and $52,000. Before the transfer, Laffitte had less than $100 available in the account to which the Plyler money was transferred.

In total, nearly a quarter of a million dollars was taken from Hannah’s account to repay outstanding loans to Laffitte, including $19,000 is still pending, Swinson testified.

This was the start of a series of money transfers detailed in jury transaction histories, with hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred from Hannah’s account to accounts associated with Laffitte, Murdaugh, the fathers of the two men and Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie.

Prior to the money transfers, Murdaugh’s account was often overdrawn. But the old Hampton the attorney would quickly spend all of Plyler’s money within months or even weeks or days and demand another transfer, Swinton said.

To cover withdrawals, Laffitte transferred money from other casualty accounts he managed, including Arthur Badger, Hakeem Pinckney and malik williamsshe said, until Murdaugh and Laffitte eventually lost their jobs at Murdaugh’s family law firm and Laffitte’s family bank, respectively.

Earlier Monday, during cross-examination of defense attorney Hannah Matt Austin noted that Laffitte managed to manage and even grow the Plyler accounts from their legal settlement. Hannah testified that she now lives off her annuity payments in the account, while her sister, Alaina, said she chose to work as a sheriff’s deputy even though her annuity covers her day-to-day expenses.

“I love working on the road, I love being one of the first people on the front line,” Alaina said. “When children are being abused, or there is a wreck I show up on involving children or when loved ones are lost, I know what it is. Working with single mothers who manage to make ends meet with nowhere to live, I know what it’s like too. It’s the silver lining when I go to work tonight, that I’ll use my life experiences to help others.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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