Convicted double murderer and disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh has been indicted on federal financial crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina announced Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a federal grand jury sitting in Charleston handed down a 22-count, 28-page indictment against the infamous Lowcountry lawyer, accusing him of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.
Murdaugh’s legal team provided Law&Crime with a statement regarding the latest charges almost as soon as they were made public.
“Alex has been cooperating with the United States Attorneys’ Office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities,” Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin said in an email. “We anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial.”
More Law&Crime coverage: Alex Murdaugh indicted on tax evasion – bringing total alleged financial crimes to 101
According to federal authorities, the indictment alleges that during Murdaugh’s previous time as a lawyer at his then-namesake, and since-shuttered, personal injury law firm, he engaged in three different schemes to steal money and property from his clients.
In one alleged scheme, the indictment states that from at least September 2005 through September 2021, Murdaugh routinely routed and redirected his clients’ settlement funds to himself.
The indictment alleges the first scheme used the following methods to defraud:
- Drafting, or directing law firm employees to draft, disbursement sheets to send settlement funds to Murdaugh’s accounts without proper disclosure or client or law firm approval;
- Claiming funds held in the law firm’s trust account as attorney’s fees and directing the disbursement of those funds for his benefit;
- Claiming and collecting attorney’s fees on fake or nonexistent annuities;
- Creating fraudulent “expenses” that were never incurred on client matters and directing the disbursement of settlement funds to pay the cited costs, including claimed medical expenses, construction expenses, and airline expenses;
- Directing other attorneys with whom he was associated on client matters to disburse attorney’s fees directly to him, rather than appropriately routing the fees through the law firm; and
- Intercepting insurance proceeds intended for beneficiaries and depositing them directly into his personal account.
The second alleged scheme concerns activity between July 2011 and at least October 2021, the indictment alleges, when Murdaugh and Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank, allegedly conspired to steal millions of dollars. In the alleged scheme, Laffitte posed as a fake personal representative or conservator for many of Murdaugh’s personal injury clients.
In late November 2022, Laffitte was convicted by a jury on six separate financial crimes, including bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and misapplication of bank funds. Jurors found that $680,000 of those funds were paid out directly to Murdaugh’s former law firm and that $1.25 million was unlawfully lent to Murdaugh himself. Laffitte is currently awaiting sentencing.
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The third alleged scheme, according to federal prosecutors, occurred between September 2015 and October 2020 when Murdaugh created a fake corporation for structuring insurance settlements called “Forge” that was used to defraud the heirs of his former housekeeper after she died from a fall on the front steps of the family’s hunting lodge.
The indictment further alleges that Murdaugh conspired with another attorney during this scheme – which also defrauded the insurance company that paid out the insurance settlement.
“Murdaugh’s insurance companies settled the estate’s claim for $505,000 and $3,800,000,” a federal press release summarizes. “The indictment alleges that Murdaugh and the personal injury attorney conspired to siphon settlement funds, disguised as ‘prosecution expenses,’ for their own personal enrichment. The indictment further alleges that Murdaugh directed the Beaufort attorney to draft checks totaling $3,483,431.95 made payable to ‘Forge.’ Murdaugh then deposited the checks into his ‘fake Forge’ account and used the funds for his own personal enrichment. The estate did not receive any of the settlement funds.”
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Murdaugh is already serving two consecutive life sentences for the June 2021 murder of his wife and younger son.
The defendant is presently being held at McCormick Correctional Institution, a Palmetto State prison located at 386 Redemption Way, McCormick. If he is convicted of federal charges, he would likely be moved to a federal prison.
A writ of habeas corpus was filed in the case by federal prosecutor Emily Limehouse, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show. The writ was filed so that Murdaugh can be moved from McCormick to the U.S. Courthouse in Charleston or anywhere else the federal government needs him to be for the duration of their case.
The lead prosecutor on the case is currently noticed as Kathleen Michelle Stoughton. The case is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel.
During his double murder trial, the defendant accepted legal culpability for numerous schemes to defraud.
More Law&Crime coverage: Alex Murdaugh has admitted to dozens of financial crimes and faces over 700 years in prison for those concessions alone
“Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers,” U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said in a press 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. We are grateful to the FBI for their tireless work on this case and to the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for their work to hold Alex Murdaugh, and those who enabled him, accountable in our state system. We remain committed to doing our part to further that effort in the federal system.”
Read the indictment in full below:
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