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Alex Murdaugh Indicted for Allegedly Defrauding Dead Housekeeper’s Family, Multiple Clients
“While it is said that Lady Justice is blind, she is not a sucker," attorneys representing Gloria Satterfield’s family said. “Bottom line — can’t run or hide from justice.”
Convicted killer Alex Murdaugh has been indicted on a series of fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges related to the alleged mishandling of insurance payouts of several clients, including his longtime housekeeper, who was fatally injured at his home five years ago.
The incarcerated former legal scion, who had long-been accused of pocketing millions in insurance settlement funds intended for the family of his late housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday, prosecutors announced.
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The 22-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
According to prosecutors, Murdaugh also swindled personal injury settlements from several clients for years prior to his arrest and conviction for the double murder of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, Paul Murdaugh.
“While it is said that Lady Justice is blind, she is not a sucker," Eric Bland and Ronald Richter, attorneys representing Satterfield’s family, said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com. “Bottom line — can’t run or hide from justice.”
Satterfield died under suspicious circumstances after she allegedly plummeted down a flight of stairs at Murdaugh’s estate in February 2018, severely injuring herself. She died in a hospital weeks later. The incident has been referred to as a fatal “trip and fall.”
In the aftermath of her death, Murdaugh allegedly told Satterfield’s sons to sue him, reassuring them the insurance companies would pay out a massive claim. One of his close associates, Cory Fleming, represented the Satterfield sons in the lawsuit, at Murdaugh's recommendation.
Murdaugh’s insurance companies would later go on to settle the estate’s claims for $505,000 and $3.8 million. Satterfield’s family didn’t receive any compensation from the insurance payouts, prosecutors say.
"Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers,” U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said in a statement on Wednesday. “South Carolinians turn to lawyers when they are at their most vulnerable, and in our state, those who abuse the public’s trust and enrich themselves by fraud, theft, and self-dealing will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Earlier this month, lawyers for Murdaugh’s family asked the judge to vacate the $4.3 million settlement awarded to the Satterfield family, after admitting Murdaugh had lied to investigators about the circumstances surrounding Satterfield’s death. Namely, Murdaugh had falsely claimed that Satterfield had suffered the deadly fall after tripping over the family’s dogs. He later confessed he’d invented the narrative involving the family’s pets.
According to the newly filed indictment, Murdaugh also orchestrated a trio of insurance fraud schemes between 2005 and 2021, in which he illegally pocketed insurance payouts for unwitting clients.
In the first suspected scheme, which dates back to September 2005, prosecutors say Murdaugh “devised a scheme to defraud and to obtain money by means of false pretenses.”
Prosecutors say Murdaugh regularly drafted or directed his law firm employees and co-attorneys to draft “disbursement sheets to send settlement funds to Murdaugh’s accounts without proper disclosure or client or law firm approval.” Murdaugh instead allegedly directed those funds for his own personal gain. Prosecutors say he also claimed and collected lawyer fees on fake annuities, invented fraudulent expenses, and intercepted beneficiary insurance payouts, which he re-routed to his own personal bank account.
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The second scheme, which began in 2011, involved Murdaugh allegedly conspiring with his banker, Russell Laffitte, to defraud clients. Prosecutors say that Murdaugh instructed law firm workers to make settlement checks out to “Palmetto State Bank,” which were later delivered to Laffitte. Murdaugh allegedly then directed his banker to use the funds on his behalf.
“The funds were used to pay off Murdaugh’s personal loans and for personal expenses and cash withdrawals,” prosecutors said.
Laffitte ultimately earned $350,000 as a personal representative to Murdaugh over the course of the alleged fraudulent scheme. He was convicted on six federal charges involving bank and wire fraud in November 2022 for his role in the scheme.
The indictment also alleges that Murdaugh siphoned settlement funds in collusion with a personal injury attorney in Beaufort, disguising insurance payouts as “prosecution expenses,” which he later deposited into a bank account he controlled under the fake corporation name “Forge.” The 14 counts of money laundering contained in the recent federal indictment stem from transactions involving the “fake Forge” account to conceal the proceeds of his fraud.
In Satterfield’s case, Murdaugh also allegedly used the Forge account to divert and collect the family’s estate payouts. The former South Carolina lawyer allegedly continued to defraud clients in all three schemes until his 2021 arrest.
The FBI and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division also assisted in the investigation.
At Murdaugh’s murder trial in March, prosecutors had contended he murdered Maggie and Paul in part to buy time and direct attention away from a growing number of investigations into a multitude of financial crimes the jailed personal injury lawyer was suspected of committing. Murdaugh resigned from his family law firm following accusations of embezzlement prior to his arrest. He was ultimately disbarred by the South Carolina Supreme Court in July 2022.
Murdaugh is currently serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility for parole for the slayings of his wife and son. He’s expected to appeal the sentence.
If convicted on all fraud and money laundering charges in the latest federal indictment, Murdaugh could be sentenced to an additional maximum 150 years behind bars and could face millions of dollars in court fines.