Convicted double murderer Alex Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to 22 federal charges of fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.
Murdaugh, 55, was arraigned on Wednesday in connection with three schemes that allegedly saw the former lawyer steal money and property from his personal injury clients.
He faces 14 counts of money laundering, five counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Though Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty, his lawyers said the plea may soon change. In a statement made to NBC News last week, Murdaugh’s lawyers, Jim Griffin and Richard Harpootlian, said their client “has been cooperating with the United States Attorneys’ Office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities.” The lawyers continued, writing that they “anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial.”
Though Murdaugh is already serving a life sentence in South Carolina for the murders of his 22-year-old son, Paul, and 52-year-old wife, Maggie, he still faces 101 charges in state court. These charges include embezzlement, computer crimes, money laundering and conspiracy.
Prosecutors have argued that Murdaugh defrauded his legal clients and the government out of more than US$9 million through his various schemes over several years.
One such scheme allegedly saw Murdaugh steal $4 million in wrongful-death settlements with insurers meant for the family of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
Cory Fleming, a former Murdaugh associate, already pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his part in helping Murdaugh steal from Satterfield. Fleming, a longtime friend of Murdaugh, allegedly conspired with the since-disgraced lawyer to sue himself over Satterfield’s death. When Murdaugh’s insurance paid the claim for $505,000 and $3.8 million, he and Fleming allegedly conspired to take the money.
Last month, Murdaugh admitted to lying about the specific circumstances of Satterfield’s trip-and-fall death at his family’s hunting lodge in 2018.
All in all, prosecutors claimed from around September 2005 until at least September 2021, Murdaugh “routed and redirected clients’ settlement funds to personally enrich himself.”
He’s been accused of drafting disbursement sheets to send settlement funds to his own accounts without approval, claiming the law firm’s trust funds himself and collecting lawyer’s fees on fake or nonexistent annuities, among other financial crimes.
“Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs in a news release. “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.”
Murdaugh is currently appealing his double murder convictions. He is being held at the maximum-security prison McCormick Correctional Institution in South Carolina.
— With files from The Associated Press