Satterfield, a longtime housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, died in February 2018 following a reported "trip and fall" accident at the Murdaugh home in Colleton County, S.C. According to indictments by the South Carolina State Grand Jury and the South Carolina Attorney General's Office, Murdaugh then allegedly orchestrated a scheme where he encouraged Satterfield's heirs to file a wrongful death suit against his insurance company, after which he allegedly stole as much as $4.3 million from the Satterfield estate.
Murdaugh is now facing criminal charges in that matter, and on Sept. 15, Michael "Tony" Satterfield and Brian Harriott, Satterfield's sons, filed a personal injury suit against Murdaugh and other parties who allegedly aided him in this insurance scheme.
The amended complaint to this suit, which the Satterfield's attorneys say was filed in Hampton County, S.C., Court of Common Pleas on Monday, Dec. 6, adds Bank of America (BOA) to the list of defendants in this lawsuit.
The Hampton County Guardian / The USA TODAY Network learned of this suit through a statement Monday afternoon from Eric Bland, of Bland Richter LLP, attorneys for the Satterfield estate. Bland told The Guardian that while the suit was filed Monday morning, it has not been electronically posted yet, but he provided a copy to reporters.
"We all recognize the significance of adding Bank of America to this action," Bland stated in the release. "They are a banking behemoth as they are the largest bank in the United States and one of the largest in the world. A true David and Goliath battle lies ahead. But the two young men, their aunt and two uncles are the five smooth stones that the [Bible] references. God will be the slingshot."
When contacted for comment, Bank of America spokesperson Bill Halldin issued the following statement:
"There is no basis for this lawsuit and we are asking the court to dismiss it. Make no mistake, the wrongdoer here was Mr. Murdaugh, and the diversion of these funds occurred away from Bank of America. We had no knowledge of any theft and followed standard procedures in account openings for a sole proprietor business."
Halldin also stated that Murdaugh established the sole proprietor account using his personal Social Security number, which is how most customers do it in accordance with South Carolina law. Halldin also provided The Guardian with links to the BOA website detailing how to establish an account.
The amended suit highlights the alleged role that BOA played in numerous, complex financial schemes allegedly orchestrated by Murdaugh, who is now facing more 30 counts of financial crimes.
"Appropriately, Bank of America now sits at the defense table with Alex Murdaugh to defend its establishment of the fake 'FORGE' accounts that became the vehicle Murdaugh used to launder millions and millions of stolen dollars," Bland states. "Without Bank of America, this could not have happened for so long and hurt so many people... Had Bank of America followed their own guidelines and acted reasonable under the circumstances, Alex Murdaugh could never have accomplished his scheme over so many years."
To date, Bland Richter has reported more than $7.7 million in settlements from this case, including settlements from S.C. Lowcountry-based Palmetto State Bank and Murdaugh's former law firm, as well as other parties allegedly involved..
In the introductory paragraph of the amended suit complaint, the Satterfield attorneys allege that BOA "aided and abetted" Murdaugh's financial crimes and money laundering and adds:
"By flexing their own rules and ignoring banking customs, BOA helped Murdaugh establish his fake Forge accounts, which Murdaugh funded with stolen money from the Plaintiffs, as well as other victims and/or PMPED clients. Once he was in possession of his ill-gotten gain, Murdaugh engaged in other suspicious banking conduct which BOA should have identified."
The suit alleges that, from one of Murdaugh's BOA accounts, he issued 17 cashier's checks to "Charles E. Smith" (named in SLED warrants as Curtis Edward Smith) totaling $164,748.76. Murdaugh also allegedly "transferred huge sums of stolen money from his fake Forge accounts to a personal checking account, which Murdaugh also established at BOA." From one such account, Murdaugh separately issued 254 personal checks to Smith totaling $1,825,560.95, the suit claims.
Murdaugh and Smith both were indicted by a Hampton County grand jury regarding a fake suicide-for-hire attempt in Hampton County over the Labor Day weekend. Smith, 61, was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Murdaugh was charged with insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, along with filing a false police report.
The 162-page amended complaint, which includes numerous exhibits but now only names Murdaugh and BOA and has removed all the parties who reached settlement agreements, lists as causes of action conspiracy, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting fraud, gross negligence, unfair or deceptive acts of commerce,
"The public has been instrumental in the investigation and prosecution of these claims to date," Bland adds. "Just as with the prior claims that have resolved, we are confident that members of the public have key information about the facts and circumstances of these claims and we urge them to come forward with their knowledge."
Murdaugh is currently detained in the Richland County, S.C. detention center facing multiple criminal charges and civil lawsuits.