SC lawyer Murdaugh indicted on 27 counts of new financial crimes: $4.8 million stolen [The State (Columbia, S.C.)]
State (Columbia, SC)
Nov. 19—COLUMBIA, S.C. — A state grand jury has indicted suspended lawyer Alex Murdaugh on 27 counts of new financial crimes, alleging he stole a total of $4.8 million across five counties.
The new indictments allege crimes as far back as 2015 and as recently as last May.
Murdaugh stole money from clients, as well as money that was to have gone to his Hampton law firm PMPED, the indictments allege.
Murdaugh then deposited the stolen money — more than $4 million — into a phony bank account he had created labeled "Forge," according to a press release by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson that included copies of the indictments.
Murdaugh used the Forge account for years "to convert the money to personal use, including withdrawing cash, making online transfers, and writing checks to family and associates," one indictment said. Murdaugh also used the money to make credit card payments and to pay off car and other loans, the indictments allege.
The indictments also allege Murdaugh used his "prestige and reputation as a lawyer" to trick lawyers at other law firms into allowing checks that should have gone to Murdaugh's law firm be deposited into his personal Forge account.
Murdaugh also allegedly forged the signature of a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper on a $125,000 insurance check for injuries the trooper suffered in the line of duty and converted the money to his personal use, one indictment said.
The new indictments said Murdaugh faces:
— Four counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent
— Seven counts of obtaining signature or property by false pretenses
— Seven counts of money laundering
— Eight counts of computer crimes
— One count of forgery
The indictments arise from alleged schemes to defraud victims and launder money in five S.C. counties: $3,483,431.95 in Beaufort County, $792,000 in Bamberg County, $383,056.14 in Allendale County, $125,000 in Orangeburg County, and $70,000 in Colleton County.
The nine counts out of Beaufort County for $3.4 million appear to be related to a previously reported alleged scheme Murdaugh carried out to embezzle money from the estate of the Murdaugh's deceased housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died in 2018 after a fatal fall at Murdaugh's house. Murdaugh already faces criminal charges in that case, but the new charges lay out more details.
Indictments across five SC counties
Most new indictments against Murdaugh have to do with cases not previously reported publicly.
In Orangeburg County, the AG's office accuses Murdaugh of defrauding a client of his, a S.C. Highway Patrol officer named Thomas L. Moore, who was injured in the line of duty, according to the indictment.
On Jan. 29, 2021, Murdaugh convinced Moore to sign over an insurance company check for settlement proceeds Moore earned to his law firm, PMPED. He said Moore's money, a check for $125,000, could not be disbursed until his litigation was finished, an indictment said.
Alex Murdaugh "deposited the $125,000 'Settlement Proceeds' check — which was supposed to be compensation to Patrolman Moore for his injuries in the line of duty — into his Forge bank account, which was called 'Richard A Murdaugh Sole Prop DBA Forge'," the indictment said.
The "Forge" account, named after a legitimate company that handles settlement disbursements, was a bank account Murdzugh set up to deposit stolen money into and convert it to his personal use, the indictments said. The legitimate company is called Forge Consulting LLC and is often used by South Carolina lawyers to handle settlement distributions to clients. The legitimate Forge has issued a statement disavowing any connection at all to Murdaugh.
In Bamberg County, the indictment says Murdaugh convinced an unnamed attorney from another firm on Mar. 10, 2021, to write Murdaugh a check for $192,000 for legal fees in case they both worked on.
Murdaugh convinced the attorney to write the check to him personally, rather than have it go through his law firm.
He deposited the check for personal use, the indictment said, and spent the money on "credit card payments, family expenses, and checks written to family, associates, and a law partner."
In Colleton and Allendale Counties, Murdaugh is accused of taking more than $400,000 in checks meant for clients as settlements for injuries they maintained.
Both cases, between 2015 and 2016, involve money Murdaugh pledged to structure for the clients and took out of PMPED's trust account meant for client settlements.
Fall from grace
The indictments are the latest in a series of stunning events involving Murdaugh since early June, when his wife, Maggie, and son Paul were found shot to death on the grounds of their rural estate in Colleton County.
At that time, Murdaugh, 53, was a respected lawyer, a fourth-generation member of a Lowcountry legal dynasty and a member of a prominent law firm.
Since then, Murdaugh has been indicted on unrelated charges involving insurance fraud and embezzlement. The S.C. Supreme Court suspended his law license. He has been pushed out and sued by the law firm his great-grandfather founded in the early 1900s. He's currently in Richland County jail on criminal charges, and a S.C. Judge in a civil case appointed receivers to take control of all his finances.
Several of the new indictments are related to an existing criminal case against Murdaugh that involves the $3-plus million estate of his deceased housekeeper Satterfield.
Satterfield, a longtime Murdaugh housekeeper and nanny for his two sons, died of fatal injuries after a 2018 fall at Murdaugh's homestead, according to warrants and legal documents in the case.
Murdaugh then developed an elaborate scheme to siphon more than $3 million from Satterfield's estate for his own use, according to charges in that case and a civil lawsuit filed against Murdaugh by Satterfield's heirs.
The alleged scheme involved Murdaugh orchestrating a death settlement for Satterfield's sons from insurance and having a lawyer friend represent them. The friend, Cory Fleming, would later write checks from the millions in settlement money to a sham Bank of America account Murdaugh controlled. The sons did not receive any money nor know about any settlement reached, their lawyer has said.
Federal authorities are also said to be investigating the Satterfield financial allegations against Murdaugh.
Eric Bland, a lawyer who with Ronnie Richter represents the Satterfield family, issued this statement Friday: "The additional indictments brought today in connection with the crimes committed against Gloria and her sons as well as apparently others are welcome, long overdue and were appropriately brought. While justice can appear at times to move slowly, when the dam breaks, justice flows like a mighty river — and in this case a mighty river is needed to cleanse all that has occurred."
Murdaugh is currently in the Richland County jail being held without bond after state Judge Clifton Newman ruled he posed a danger to the community.
This story will be updated.
This story was originally published November 19, 20219:41 AM.
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