Alex Murdaugh, the disbarred South Carolina lawyer convicted this March of murdering his wife and son in June 2021, has been indicted on 22 counts of federal fraud and money laundering, including charges of defrauding his late housekeeper’s family after her death in February 2018.
The new fraud charges announced on Wednesday come in addition to a staggering 20 indictments containing 101 charges issued by the state of South Carolina against Murdaugh for allegedly defrauding people of nearly $9 million. The state charges range from breach of trust to forgery, money laundering and tax evasion.
The charges served as key evidence in Murdaugh’s widely watched murder trial; prosecutors argued that as people close to him discovered the extent of his alleged schemes, he killed them to garner sympathy for himself and buy time to cover up his misdealings.
Murdaugh, a personal injury attorney, was first arrested in October 2021 for allegedly misappropriating insurance funds meant for the family of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield after her fatal “trip and fall” accident at his home. (The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, announced in September 2021 that it would be investigating Satterfield’s death, and in June 2022 said it would exhume her remains, which has not yet occurred.)
In December 2021, Murdaugh agreed to a $4.3 million settlement with the Satterfields, apologizing “for his financial transgressions committed in connection with the wrongful death settlement funds recovered in connection with the death of Gloria Satterfield and the pain it has caused.”
Murdaugh was in jail on fraud and other charges when he was charged in July 2022 with killing Maggie and Paul Murdaugh in June 2021. After a lengthy trial, he was convicted of their murders in March and is serving a life sentence. He is currently appealing the verdict.
The federal indictment alleges that Murdaugh, in addition to siphoning funds from the Satterfield settlement, schemed to obtain money and property from his personal injury clients by redirecting their settlement funds to himself, conspiring with his banker to commit wire and bank fraud, and creating a phony bank account through which he funneled the personal injury settlements.
In a May 1 filing, Murdaugh said he “invented” the story that his family’s dogs had caused the 57-year-old Satterfield to fall on the steps “to force his insurers to make a settlement payment.” If the insurer “only attempted to [pay the Satterfield estate because] it was the victim of fraud,” then anyone who received the money would be required to return it, the filing states.
Murdaugh was part of a prominent legal family that wielded unprecedented power and influence in their small South Carolina community and a onetime prosecutor himself. “All judges, all judges in the state, either knew him or knew of him,” Judge Clifton Newman said after the murder trial.
“Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers,” U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said in a statement on Wednesday. “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’s lawyers Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin said he has been cooperating with authorities.
“Alex has been cooperating with the United States Attorneys’ Office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities,” their statement said. “We anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial.”