Alex Murdaugh: SC bank CEO fired over ex-lawyer's alleged schemes to defraud deaf quadriplegic, others

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The CEO of a prominent South Carolina bank was fired on Friday as allegations came to light that he and others might have been involved in disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh’s alleged schemes to defraud a deaf quadriplegic man and additional former clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

The board of directors for Palmetto State Bank recently moved to fire their CEO, Russell Laffitte. 

“Palmetto State Bank has this afternoon permanently severed the employment of Russell Laffitte, effective immediately,” board president Jan Malinowski confirmed in a statement to the Island Packet Friday. “The bank and its board of directors remain fully committed to their customers, employees, shareholders, and the communities Palmetto State Bank serves.”

Laffitte’s family founded Palmetto State Bank in Hampton, South Carolina in 1907. That’s just three years before Murdaugh’s great-grandfather founded the personal injury law firm PMPED in 1910. 

Fox News Digital first reported on new allegations that Laffitte is being accused of helping Murdaugh defraud a young man who attended the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. That young man, who was already deaf, was rendered a quadriplegic in a car crash and placed on a ventilator. 

 Alex Murdaugh awaits the beginning of his bond hearing in the Richland Judicial Center in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.    Murdaugh was indicted Friday, Nov. 19,  on 27 additional charges involving financial crimes. Prosecutors say Murdaugh stole nearly $5 million in settlement money he had obtained for his dead housekeeper, an injured state trooper and other people as well as fees meant for his law firm.  
(AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine, Pool)

Murdaugh allegedly introduced the man’s mother to his longtime friend and lawyer, Cory Fleming, who then brought in Laffitte to manage his finances. When the young man later died at a care facility after his ventilator became unexplainably unplugged, Laffitte was appointed conservator of the man’s estate, attorney and Democratic state lawmaker Justin Bamberg told Fox News Digital last week. 

Bamberg would not initially provide the names of the young man or his mother to Fox News Digital, citing pending investigations. He confirmed their identities to local news outlets later in the week around the same time Palmetto State Bank announced the firing of their CEO. 

The man rendered a quadriplegic was Hakeem Pinckney, and his mother is Pamela Pinckney, Island Packet and FITSNews both reported, citing Bamberg. 

Pamela was driving the vehicle during a 2009 crash that also left her severely disabled. Hakeem’s sister, Shaquarah Pinckney, was also a passenger, as was their cousin, Natasha Thomas. 

Murdaugh represented the Pinckney family in a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tires on the vehicle. After Hakeem’s death in 2011 at the age of 21, a different attorney for Murdaugh’s law firm handled a wrongful death lawsuit against the care facility. 

In total, the Pinckneys were entitled to between $800,000 to $1 million in settlement funds, but the family never received any of the money, according to Bamberg. He is working on filing civil litigation in Hampton County on behalf of a total of eight former clients of Murdaugh. 

Alex Murdaugh appeared in a new mugshot following his arrest in Orlando, Florida on charges in connection to housekeeper Gloria Satterfield insurance settlements
(Orange County Corrections)

“Nobody will be able to convince me that Alex Murdaugh was alone in his endeavor to steal millions of dollars from people,” Bamberg told Fox News Digital Wednesday by phone. 

Court documents show that Palmetto State Bank was subpoenaed in November as the South Carolina Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigated allegations of attorney misconduct. The subpoena requested records for proceedings from the estate of Hakeem Pinckney, as well as from matters where Laffitte served as a conservator for Natasha Thomas and for Shaquarah Pinckney. 

The subpoena also requested records on the vice president of Palmetto State Bank, Chad Westendorf. Westendorf made headlines last year as he was named in civil litigation filed on behalf of the family of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. In the housekeeper’s case, Murdaugh introduced Satterfield’s sons to Fleming, who brought in Westendorf, as the representative of Satterfield’s estate.

Murdaugh was indicted for allegedly diverting some of $4.3 million in settlement funds to a personal bank account. Law licenses for both Murdaugh and Fleming have been suspended by the South Carolina Supreme Court. Palmetto State Bank, Westendorf and Fleming reached confidential settlements with Satterfield’s sons last year over the matter. Westendorf reportedly remains employed by the bank. 

So far, neither Laffitte, Westendorf nor Fleming have been criminally charged. 

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