Alex Murdaugh’s 19 indictments and 99 financial charges explained
COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - When the trial of Alex Murdaugh begins next week in Colleton County, prosecutors are expected to argue that he murdered his wife and son to distract from the millions of dollars he stole from friends, family, clients and his former law firm.
Releases and documents from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office detail the list of 19 indictments and 99 charges — from tax evasion, money laundering, and forgery, to fraud and beyond — all related to alleged financial crimes dating back years. Those crimes amount to more than $8.7 million swindled from his victims, prosecutors say.
“Alex’s financial crimes are nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, and all Ponzi schemes work in the same way—I have to continue to steal from new people to replace the money I’ve stolen from old people,” Ronnie Richter, an attorney representing victims of Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes, says. “All Ponzi schemes end the same way. Sooner or later it’s like musical chairs: the music stops and someone is without a chair. And that’s exactly what happened with Alex. The music stopped, he ran out of places to get money and all of his financial crimes were exposed.”
But before the crimes were exposed, Richter and his law partner Eric Bland say the list of Murdaugh’s financial victims was growing.
SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases
It included one of their clients: the family of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh’s former housekeeper. She died after a fall on their property in 2018 in what was once described as a “trip and fall accident.” The Satterfields were supposed to get millions of dollars from an insurance settlement, but instead, an indictment states Murdaugh and a friend, fellow attorney Cory Fleming, worked together to steal from insurance companies, Satterfield’s sons and her estate, pocketing the money themselves.
“As we got into the case, the [$500,000] turns into, ‘No we think it might be as much as a million. It could be two, it could be three.’ It was $4.3 million, and of that money, the clients received not the first red dime,” Richter says. “It was stunning that, A, it was that much money and, B, the decision was to take it all.”
Beyond the Satterfield case, court documents allege Murdaugh defrauded hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims that included a highway patrolman injured in the line of duty, the family of a man killed in a car crash, a father of six who lost his wife in an accident.
“Just the amount of money involved, the exploitation of vulnerable people really has floored me and rocked me hard—people that lost family members, people that needed the money for medical treatment, a lot of exploitation of minorities,” Bland says.
Prosecutors argue in order to steal the millions of dollars, Murdaugh billed personal expenses to clients and on firm credit cards or accounts, and the state alleges he stole client money by having checks for clients made out to Palmetto State Bank, whose former CEO, Russell Lafitte, converted for Murdaugh’s personal use.
The state alleges that Murdaugh also used a fake bank account, and he his stole from own family and the firm—once taking a check incorrectly made out to him, claiming he lost the check and getting another one. He deposited both checks months apart, prosecutors say, stealing the same money twice.
“He checks all the boxes on being a serial pen slinger, a serial thief,” Bland says. “He’s an equal opportunity stealer. He steals from those that died, those that were injured, people like Jordan Jinks that were friends with him, the Satterfields who went to high school with him, Gloria Satterfield who raised his children for 24 years. There’s no bounds of indecency that he will not cross.”
These alleged financial crimes are a key piece of the state’s argument in next week’s murder trial. Prosecutors argue pressure was mounting for Murdaugh, his scheme was unraveling and his crimes were on the verge of being revealed.
In fact, on the day of the murder, prosecutors say Murdaugh’s law office confronted him about misusing funds from the firm.
“His financial crimes were going to be exposed and you say, ‘That’s not enough reason to kill somebody,’ but maybe it is. People do kill for money. But the prime directive is always survival and self-preservation,” Richter says. “Had his crimes been revealed, it doesn’t just mean that he’s in trouble. His lineage, his legacy, his name, the entire Murdaugh dynasty crumbles and he knows it.”
Murdaugh’s defense team calls this motive “illogical and implausible” and claims the state has presented no evidence that establishes a clear connection between the crimes.
But murder charges aside, if Murdaugh were convicted of these financial crimes alone, documents show he’d be in jail for the rest of his life.
“[He would serve] over 900 years, close to 1,000 years,” Bland says.
Murdaugh’s murder trial begins Monday in Colleton County. No date has been set for a trial for any of the financial crimes of which he is accused.
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