A federal grand jury indicted convicted murderer and former personal injury lawyer Alex Murdaugh on 22 financial fraud-related charges, including that he cheated his late housekeeper's estate and insurance carriers out of millions of dollars, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina said Murdaugh, 54, conspired with Cory Fleming, another personal injury lawyer, to siphon settlement funds in the death of the Murdaughs' longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died in 2018 following what had been described as a "trip and fall accident" at the family home.
Murdaugh is accused of directing Fleming to draft checks totaling almost $3.5 million to a bank account that he used for his own personal enrichment while Satterfield's estate received none of the settlement funds, prosecutors said.
Fleming, 54, is expected to plead guilty Thursday on a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the Satterfield case, federal prosecutors also said Wednesday.
"Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers," U.S. Attorney Adair Boroughs said in a statement. "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."
This month, Murdaugh's lawyers revealed as part of a lawsuit accusing him of life insurance fraud in the death of Satterfield, 57, that he "invented the critical facts" surrounding her initial trip and fall accident in order to receive millions of dollars in the settlement.
Nautilus Insurance Co. had filed a suit alleging it was defrauded.
"No dogs were involved in the fall of Gloria Satterfield on February 2, 2018," Murdaugh's attorneys said in the legal filing. After her death, Murdaugh "invented Ms. Satterfield's purported statement that dogs caused her to fall to force his insurers to make a settlement payment."
Eric Bland, an attorney for Satterfield's children, has said Murdaugh never told the family about the settlement money. While Murdaugh initially claimed that Satterfield died following a fall, he now says he can't remember exactly what happened.
In a tweet Wednesday, Bland said the latest developments against Murdaugh and Fleming represent "a great day for justice in South Carolina."
"While it is said that Lady Justice is blind, she is not a sucker. Bottom Line — Cant run or hide from justice," Bland wrote.
Murdaugh's lawyers, Jim Griffin and Richard "Dick" Harpootlian, said Wednesday that he is cooperating with the federal investigation and "anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial."
Murdaugh was convicted in March and sentenced to life without parole for the June 2021 slayings of his wife, Margaret, and younger son, Paul, in a case that grabbed national attention and shattered the immaculate image of the well-connected legal family in South Carolina's Lowcountry.
The prosecution built a sprawling case based on circumstantial evidence to convince jurors that Murdaugh was guilty, using electronic data and video extracted from the victims' cellphones to suggest that only he had the motive, means and opportunity to kill his wife and son.
The latest federal indictments also accuse Murdaugh of redirecting other clients' settlement funds from at least 2005 to 2021 "to personally enrich himself" and conspiring with a banker so that Murdaugh could pay off his own personal loans and for personal expenses and cash withdrawals using settlement funds. The new charges include bank and wire fraud and money laundering.
During Murdaugh's double murder trial, prosecutors said he had been swindling clients for years, and he used the money, in part, to feed an addiction to pain pills.
Murdaugh is still awaiting another trial on more than 100 financial crimes-related charges related to missing client funds from his family's law firm and insurance fraud. His attorneys have also filed a notice to appeal his murder convictions.