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Alex Murdaugh is still fighting his murder conviction. But he’s admitted to these crimes

Alex Murdaugh has been exposed as a family annihilator, a fraudster, a thief and a liar. On Tuesday, he will finally be sentenced over the multi-million-dollar fraud scheme which helped drive him to murder. Rachel Sharp reports

Tuesday 28 November 2023 13:04 GMT
Alex Murdaugh in court as he enters a guilty plea on state financial fraud charges
Alex Murdaugh in court as he enters a guilty plea on state financial fraud charges (AP)

For more than two decades, Gloria Satterfield cared for the Murdaugh family as if they were her own.

As the family’s housekeeper, she kept the sprawling Moselle property that they called home in order.

And she acted as a “second mom” to their sons Buster and Paul, according to Paul’s former girlfriend.

So, when the mother-of-two died in a tragic fall down the steps of the family home in 2018, it seemed only natural that Alex Murdaugh would wish to take care of her two sons financially.

And, for some time, that’s what they believed he was going to do – until it emerged he had stolen every single dime of a $4m settlement from them through a wrongful death lawsuit.

It was the ultimate betrayal to two vulnerable individuals who had put their trust in the 54-year-old as an attorney, a family friend and a confidante.

But it was by far his only betrayal.

In the space of just over two years, Murdaugh has been exposed as a family annihilator, a fraudster, a thief and a liar.

This March, he was convicted of brutally murdering his wife Maggie and son Paul at the same Moselle estate where Satterfield died three years earlier.

And, this Tuesday, he will finally be jailed for stealing millions of dollars from the Satterfields and several other victims as part of a vast, decade-long, multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.

Decade of deceit

For more than a decade, Murdaugh stole over $8.5m from clients at his law firm, the law firm itself, and the state and federal government.

Prosecutors said the convicted killer worked with his co-conspirators and friends ex-attorney Cory Fleming and ex-Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte to swindle clients out of millions of dollars.

The scheme involved filing lawsuits on behalf of vulnerable clients – and then pocketing the money themselves.

Gloria Satterfield died in a ‘trip and fall’ at the Murdaugh home in 2018 (Provided)

In the Satterfield case, Murdaugh recommended that her sons hire Fleming to represent them in bringing a wrongful death claim against him – as the homeowner of the property where she died – so that they could collect from his homeowner’s insurance policies.

The insurance companies ultimately settled the estate’s claim for more than $4m – two payments of $505,000 and $3.8m.

Murdaugh and Fleming then stole the settlement money for themselves and the housekeeper’s sons didn’t get a dime.

Much of the stolen money was funneled through a fake “Forge” bank account which sought to imitate the legitimate and totally unrelated business Forge Consulting.

The Satterfield case is among the most shocking, due to Murdaugh’s personal ties to the family.

But several other victims also fell foul of his schemes.

Among the other victims were the family of Hakeem Pinckney – who he represented through his law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED).

Hakeem Pinckney’s family was also swindled by Murdaugh (provided)

Pinckney was a deaf man who became a quadriplegic after being involved in a horror car crash in 2009. He died two years later.

Another victim was former lieutenant with the South Carolina Highway Patrol Tommy Moore, who hired Murdaugh as his personal injury lawyer when he suffered a broken neck in the line of duty.

‘Tangled web we weave’

Murdaugh’s financial crimes came crashing down around him when he murdered Maggie and Paul on 7 June 2021.

The brutal murders thrust the legal dynasty heir into the national spotlight. And, within months, his financial crimes were also exposed to the world.

According to prosecutors, Murdaugh’s greed played a key role in the motive for the violent murders of his loved ones.

At his trial, jurors heard that his colleagues at PMPED were closing in on his multi-million-dollar fraud scheme with a colleague confronting him about $792,000 in missing money on the morning of the murders.

His finances were also coming under intense scrutiny in a lawsuit brought by the family of Mallory Beach – a 19-year-old woman who died in a 2019 crash in the Murdaugh family boat. A hearing for the boat crash lawsuit was scheduled for 10 June – three days after the murders.

After Maggie and Paul were gunned down on the family home, questions about his finances fell by the wayside.

But, not for long.

Two months later – in September 2021 – Murdaugh resigned in shame from his law firm after they confronted him about the years of theft. He was then hit with a slew of financial fraud charges on both a state and federal level.

Jurors at his murder trial heard from victims, friends and colleagues who were all deceived by Murdaugh, as prosecutors painted a picture of a man who stole from and lied to those closest to him – and a desperate man who would do anything to hide his deceit from the world.

Dramatic moment Alex Murdaugh confronted over why he lied about night of murders

Then, in a dramatic moment, the killer made a shock confession that all the financial crime allegations were indeed true.

Murdaugh admitted that he had stolen from multiple victims, claiming that he did it to fund his 20-year opioid addiction – something that prosecutors cast doubts on.

Since then, Murdaugh has admitted to his financial crimes twice more in court – pleading guilty in both his federal and state criminal cases. Yet, while he has admitted to these crimes, Murdaugh continues to claim he is innocent of the murders of his wife and son.

The sentencing

On Tuesday 28 November, Murdaugh will be back in court in Beaufort County to be sentenced on the slew of state financial fraud charges.

The convicted killer accepted a plea deal in the case earlier this month – admitting to the sprawling fraud scheme in court.

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office had offered Murdaugh a deal to plead guilty to 22 of the 101 charges in the case in exchange for a reduced sentence.

The 22 charges include: seven counts of money laundering, four counts of obtaining a signature by false pretences, six counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, and one count each of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, forgery, computer crimes, criminal conspiracy and willful attempt to evade or defeat a tax.

The other charges will be dismissed.

Based on the remaining charges, Murdaugh could face up to 239 years in prison.

However, prosecutors are asking Judge Clifton Newman to sentence him to 27 years – a sentence which would be served concurrently to his existing two life sentences for double murder.

Before the judge hands down his sentence, several of Murdaugh’s victims are slated to confront him in court in impact statements, including one of Satterfield’s adult sons and her sister.

Alex Murdaugh on the stand at his murder trial (AP)

The family’s attorney Eric Bland told NBC News he is also planning to speak and has been preparing for this moment.

“I’m going to say that ‘I heard you say that you wrongfully took... no, you didn’t wrongfully take, you stole,’” he said.

“‘I heard you say you misrepresented. No, you didn’t misrepresent, you lied. Yeah, let’s not sugarcoat what you did. You’re a thief and a liar.’”

He added: “It’s not over yet, but to be able to face this monster — and he’s going to have to listen. He can smile and he can smirk, but he can hear, and the words are going to go in his ears and he’s going to listen.”

Murdaugh is still awaiting sentencing on a string of federal charges over the same crimes, after he also pleaded guilty to 22 federal financial charges including wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, in September. The state and federal sentences will be served concurrently.

However, the plea deals will have no bearing on charges over another related incident.

Hours after he had resigned in shame from his law firm in September 2021, Murdaugh was shot in the head by the side of a road in Hampton County.

Days later, Murdaugh confessed to orchestrating a bizarre botched hitman plot, enlisting Curtis “Cousin Eddie” Smith – his alleged accomplice, distant cousin and drug dealer – to shoot him in the head so that his surviving son Buster could get a $10m life insurance windfall.

Both Murdaugh and Mr Smith are charged over the incident.

However, Mr Smith denies Murdaugh’s version of events.

Alex Murdaugh's friend cries while testifying about lawyer's alleged financial crimes

That Murdaugh is a liar is not up for debate.

He admitted to lying about his whereabouts on the night of his wife and son’s murders at his trial.

Prosecutors – and the jurors that convicted him and the evidence presented against him – say he lied about being the person who pulled the triggers that night.

But, the financial crime is one thing that Murdaugh seems willing to, at least in part, admit to.

Speaking to reporters earlier this month, his attorney and close friend Jim Griffin said Murdaugh “feels very comfortable doing prison time for crimes he committed”.

He added: “He does not feel comfortable doing prison time for the murders of his wife and son, which he did not do.”

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