Attorneys for Murdaugh housekeeper's heirs want to question banker over missing $4.3M [The State (Columbia, S.C.)]
State (Columbia, SC)
Oct. 13—Attorneys for the heirs of the deceased Murdaugh housekeeper Gloria Satterfield are seeking a court order to force the Hampton banker who oversaw the distribution of $4.3 million in insurance proceeds to explain why none of the money reached the heirs.
A civil lawsuit filed last month in state court already alleges banker Chad Westendorf participated in a scheme with attorneys Alex Murdaugh and Cory Fleming to deprive Satterfield's heirs of their inheritance.
But a new motion in that case by attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter lays out fresh details about the money Westendorf was supposed to oversee for the heirs and how that money was handled. The motion was sent by UPS "overnight Delivery" Tuesday to be filed Wednesday in Hampton County Probate Court, Bland said.
Westendorf served as personal representative for the heirs, Tony Satterfield and Brian Harriott. In that position, Westendorf was responsible for overseeing the distribution of four insurance checks totaling $4.3 million flowing into Satterfield's estate, the new motion says.
The new motion, which questions whether Westendorf acted properly in fulfilling his role as personal representative, said the four checks were:
— A BB&T check dated Dec. 4, 2018, for $505,000, payable to "Chad Westendorf, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Gloria Satterfield, and Moss Kuhn & Fleming, PA, (and) endorsed by Westendorf."
— A Jan. 7, 2019, BB&T check for $10,000, made payable to "Chad Westendorf" and endorsed by Westendorf.
— An April 18, 2019, BB&T check for $3.8 million, made payable to "Chad Westendorf, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Gloria Satterfield, and Moss Kuhn & Fleming, PA as Attorney" and endorsed by Westendorf.
— A May 13, 2019, BB&T check for $20,000, made payable to "Chad Westendorf" and endorsed by Westendorf.
Westendorf was supposed to keep the heirs up to date on money he handled, but the two heirs were never informed of any of the four checks, the motion alleges.
Under a court order signed by S.C. Judge Carmen Mullen in May 2019, the heirs were supposed to be paid $2.765 million of the $4.3 million, according to the motion.
"They were not paid one dime," the motion says.
The motion also says that Westendorf received $30,000 in fees from the insurance proceeds, money that he wasn't supposed to take.
In an interview Wednesday, Bland said that Westendorf has committed to paying back that money.
Westendorf could not be reached for comment.
The $4.3 million came from Alex Murdaugh's insurance policies that covered deaths or injuries to third parties at his home. Satterfield, 53, died of injuries she received in a February 2018 fall at the Murdaugh house, where she had been a longtime housekeeper and nanny.
After Satterfield's death Murdaugh organized a plan in which he and Fleming would file a claim with insurance companies for the $4.3 million, and Westendorf would oversee the handling of the proceeds, according to the heirs' lawsuit and the new motion.
"Westendorf, as fiduciary to the Estate and as an officer of the Hampton County Probate Court, had a duty to secure the funds which were to be paid to him (and) distribute the designated amount of the wrongful death proceeds to Tony and Brian," the motion says. A "fiduciary" is a trustee to a financial matter who is supposed to act legally and ethically.
The S.C. Supreme Court has suspended the law licenses of both Murdaugh and Fleming. The high court suspended Murdaugh's law license in early September after his former law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, Detrick, of Hampton, accused him of embezzling money from the firm and clients. Fleming's law license was suspended Oct. 8 after the heirs' lawsuit was filed.
In a recent public statement, Fleming has said he was misled by Murdaugh and apologized for his role in the Satterfield estate matter. Fleming and his former law firm have committed to paying back the money — more than $1 million — he and his law firm received from the Satterfield estate, according to a joint statement by Fleming and Bland.
"Mr. Fleming maintains he was not a willing participant in Mr. Murdaugh's scheme but was used. Mr. Fleming states he would never knowingly jeopardize client funds or put a personal or professional relationship above his professional responsibilities," the statement said.
The lawsuit from his former firm, PMPED, alleges Murdaugh participated in a scheme similar to what is described in the Satterfield sons' lawsuit: He made checks belonging to clients and the law firm into a bank account payable to "Forge" and deposited them in a similarly named Bank of America account.
Forge Consulting LLC, an Atlanta-based financial firm, was invoked so as not to arouse suspicion, PMPED alleges, because Forge often worked with its clients to structure settlements.
Murdaugh is under criminal investigation by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division for allegations of misappropriated money from PMPED and the death of Gloria Satterfield, including any financial impropriety.
Ties to Westendorf
The 13-page request for an "emergency hearing," expected to be filed in Hampton County probate court on Wednesday, also said that:
— Westendorf wound up with $30,000 of the insurance proceeds though he was not eligible to receive that amount.
— Westendorf permitted Fleming to send a check for $403,500 to an account called "FORGE" at a post office box in Hampton. But the FORGE account "was a fraudulent account controlled by Murdaugh" and named Forge "for the purpose of creating the illusion that it was actually the structured settlement firm known as Forge Consulting, LLC," the motion says.
— In March 2019, Fleming and Westendorf were able to secure an additional settlement for $3.8 million from Nautilus Insurance Company, the motion says.
— In April 2019, attorney John Grantland, who represented Nautilus, sent a $3.8 million check payable to Chad Westendorf, as personal representative of Satterfield's estate, and also to Fleming's law firm. Grantland's letter requested the settlement funds not be paid out until an order approving the settlement had been filed at the Hampton County probate court.
Westendorf is a vice president of Palmetto State Bank and president of Independent Banks of South Carolina nonprofit.
According to a Facebook post from the nonprofit, Westendorf started as president on Sept. 1, which was two weeks before the allegations were leveled against him in the Satterfield case.
This story was originally published October 13, 202110:39 AM.
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