A banker accused of helping disfellowshipped attorney Alex Murdaugh take money out of clients’ legal settlements was found guilty in South Carolina late Tuesday of wire and bank fraud.

Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte has been allowed to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing at a later date. Each of the six counts on which he was convicted in federal court carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

It was the first trial related to the sprawling Murdaugh legal drama that captivated audiences for true crime.

Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and son and his murder trial is scheduled to begin in January. He also faces nearly 100 other charges ranging from money laundering to drug offenses to stealing customers and attempting to arrange his own death to get a $10 million life insurance benefit for his surviving son.

And while Murdaugh, 54, was not at the federal courthouse in Charleston, he was looming over Laffitte’s trial.

Laffitte, 51, did not deny that his handling of Murdaugh’s finances helped the attorney steal clients, but testified in his own defense during his federal trial that he was duped, according to news outlets.

When a prosecutor asked Laffitte if he stole, he replied, “I did, but absolutely not on purpose.”

Prosecutors had to prove Laffitte’s willful involvement in the fraud in order to convict him.

Prosecutors said Laffitte knew what he was doing as he effectively worked as Murdaugh’s personal banker and eventually became the court-appointed administrator for the settlement funds of several of his underage clients.

Laffitte lent Murdaugh and himself money from these settlements and derived that money from personal injury or death.

Murdaugh had a plan to steal the money but needed someone organized and detail-oriented to avoid being easily caught, prosecutor Emily Limehouse said in her closing statement.

“None of this would have happened without Alex Murdaugh, but none of this could have happened without the defendant,” Limehouse said.

Through both Laffitte’s testimony and other witnesses, defense attorneys attempted to show that the banker was only trying to follow the instructions of one of his largest clients and was being lied to and manipulated.

“He admits he did everything,” defense attorney Matt Austin said in his closing statement. “He just doesn’t think he committed a crime.”

However, prosecutors pointed out that Murdaugh made out Laffitte checks to the bank instead of customers, allowing the attorney to divert the money to people he owed money to, whether it was his law firm, from whom he stole money, or other customers he had already stolen money from or family members.

This also allowed Laffitte to avoid paying taxes.

Laffitte was convicted of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy, and three counts of misappropriation of bank funds. He also faces 21 counts of financial crimes in state court.

Murdaugh was disbarred and Laffitte was fired last year.

The Murdaugh murder case even surfaced in Laffitte’s trial. Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, were shot dead with various guns outside a family home in Colleton County on June 7, 2021.

A Laffittes bank employee testified that hours before the murders, she confronted Murdaugh about missing charges from one of his cases. Neither Laffitte prosecutors nor investigators into the murders have mentioned whether they see a connection between the events.

Both Murdaugh and Laffitte hail from tiny Hampton County. Murdaugh’s family law practice dominated the legal community and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the area’s elected attorneys for 87 years.

Laffitte’s family built Palmetto State Bank and built an excellent reputation that has led to honors such as being named Banker of the Year by the Independent Banks of South Carolina in 2019.

And like many small towns, their families were intertwined. The law firm clerk who confronted Murdaugh about the missing money on the day his wife and son died was Jeanne Seckinger, Laffitte’s sister-in-law.

More than a third of the witnesses at Laffitte’s trial were his relatives, most of whom testified for prosecutors.