The Palmetto State Bank CEO in Hampton was fired on Jan. 7 as questions swirl over his role in the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money intended for former clients of disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh.

The bank has severed ties with CEO Russell Laffitte, board chairman Jan Malinowski said in a statement.

“The bank and its board of directors remain fully committed to their customers, employees, shareholders and the communities served by Palmetto State Bank,” said Malinowski.

Laffitte’s departure was first reported on January 7 by The Island Packet.

The Bluffton-based newspaper reported obtaining a copy of a subpoena sent by the SC Supreme Court Disciplinary Board office requesting probate court records in Hampton County regarding Murdaugh, Laffitte and a another bank official, Chad Westendorf.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is responsible for investigating complaints against lawyers and judges in South Carolina.

The Island Packet reported that Laffitte was fired after reporters inquired about his employment status with the bank.

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Attorney Justin Bamberg represents several former clients of Alex Murdaugh who were identified in the summons. He also represents the estate of Hakeem Pinckney, who died in October 2011.

Bamberg said Laffitte had been made curator of Pinckney and was responsible for protecting his financial interests in a lawsuit filed after a car crash in 2009 that left him severely disabled.

Laffitte did not do this, Bamberg said. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money intended for Pinckney and his family went missing in the case, likely in Murdaugh’s pockets, according to Bamberg.

Murdaugh has not been charged with the missing money. Jim Griffin, one of his attorneys, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Palmetto State Bank was founded in 1907 by the Laffitte family. It manages over $ 500 million in assets and has branches in Beaufort, Allendale and Hampton counties.

The bank has been under scrutiny since she was named a defendant in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the sons of Gloria Satterfield, a former housekeeper and nanny of the Murdaugh family who died in a slip on a Murdaugh property in 2018.

Lawsuit claims Murdaugh and Cory Fleming, his longtime friend and fellow lawyer, defrauded the Satterfield family over a $ 4.3 million settlement they were supposed to receive after settling death insurance claims from their mother.

Fleming reportedly encouraged the Satterfields to appoint Westendorf, vice chairman of the Palmetto State Bank, to represent and manage their mother’s estate.

Murdaugh was arrested in October on allegations he embezzled millions of dollars intended for the Satterfield sons into his personal bank account.

Palmetto State Bank has denied any wrongdoing in a court record, saying Westendorf represented the Satterfield estate in a personal capacity.

Palmetto State Bank, Westendorf and Fleming settled with the Satterfield family last year, court documents show.

The SC Supreme Court suspended Murdaugh and Fleming’s law licenses at the request of the Office of Disciplinary Council.

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Hakeem Pinckney’s case shares similarities with Satterfield’s case, Bamberg said.

Pinckney remained quadriplegic and on a ventilator after a car crash in 2009, the lawyer said.

Already deaf from chronic ear infections he suffered as a child, Pinckney “couldn’t breathe on his own, he couldn’t hear, he could speak and he couldn’t move,” Bamberg said.

Pinckney’s cousin Natasha Thomas and Pinckney’s sister Shaquarah were also passengers in the vehicle during the crash. Pinckney’s mother, Pamela, was the driver of the vehicle.

Murdaugh represented the Pinckney siblings and their cousin in a lawsuit against the car’s tire maker, Bamberg said.

Murdaugh recommended that Pamela Pinckney hire Fleming to represent her in the case. Laffitte was recommended to serve as curator for Hakeem Pinckney, as well as Pinckney’s sister and cousin, who were minors at the time of the crash, according to Bamberg.

The family settled their claims and received the money, Bamberg said, but not all they were entitled to.

In total, he estimated that between $ 800,000 and $ 1 million were missing from the family’s rules.

Bamberg said Pamela Pinckney first learned of the missing money after being contacted by the former law firm of Murdaugh, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, Detrick.

Bamberg said he has yet to file a complaint on behalf of his clients.

Murdaugh, 53, is jailed on $ 7 million bail pending trial on dozens of state charges relating to the theft of some $ 6.2 million from former clients he represented in cases civilians.

Murdaugh also faces insurance fraud charges after confessing in September that a hitman shot him in the head in an attempt to leave his son, Buster, with $ 10 million in life insurance.

He survived the shooting and then went to a drug rehab center for opioid addiction.

The assisted suicide attempt and flurry of charges came following Murdaugh’s news that he found his wife, Maggie, and son Paul shot dead on June 7 on their 1,700-acre hunting property which straddles the border of the counties of Hampton and Colleton.

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