Convicted double murderer and disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh has been charged with federal financial crimes, the US Attorney for the District of South Carolina said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a federal grand jury meeting in Charleston issued a 22-page, 28-page indictment against the notorious Lowcountry attorney, charging him with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Murdaugh’s legal team provided Law&Crime with a statement on the latest charges almost immediately after their release.
“Alex has worked with U.S. Attorneys and federal agencies investigating a wide range of activities,” Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin said in an email. “We assume that the allegations made today will be resolved quickly and without a court hearing.”
More coverage of law and crime: Alex Murdaugh charged with tax evasion – total number of alleged financial crimes rises to 101
According to federal authorities, the indictment alleges that Murdaugh was involved in three separate schemes to steal money and property from his clients during his former tenure as an attorney at his then eponymous and now-defunct personal injury law firm.
In one alleged scheme, the indictment states that from at least September 2005 to September 2021, Murdaugh routinely routed and diverted his clients’ settlement funds to himself.
The indictment alleges that the first plan used the following fraud methods:
- preparing or instructing law firm employees to prepare payout forms to transfer settlement funds to Murdaugh’s accounts without proper disclosure or consent of the client or the law firm;
- claiming monies held in the law firm’s escrow account as attorneys’ fees and ordering the payment of such monies on his behalf;
- Claiming and collecting attorneys’ fees for bogus or non-existent annuities;
- creating fraudulent “expenses” never incurred in customer affairs and ordering the payment of settlement funds to pay said expenses, including claimed medical expenses, construction expenses and airfare;
- Directing other attorneys with whom he worked on client matters to pay attorneys’ fees directly to him, rather than properly remitting fees through the law firm; And
- The insurance proceeds intended for the beneficiaries are intercepted and deposited directly into his personal account.
The second alleged plan involves activity between July 2011 and at least October 2021, 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 false personal representative or restorer for many of Murdaugh’s personal injury clients.
In late November 2022, Laffitte was convicted by a jury of six separate financial offenses, including bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and misappropriation of bank funds. The jury found that $680,000 of that money was paid directly to Murdaugh’s former law firm and that $1.25 million was wrongfully loaned to Murdaugh himself. Laffitte is currently awaiting sentencing.
More coverage of Law&Crime: Convicted co-conspirator Alex Murdaugh attempts to use the killer’s testimony during the trial to have the conviction overturned
The third alleged plot, federal prosecutors say, occurred between September 2015 and October 2020 when Murdaugh formed a shell insurance structuring company called “Forge,” which was used to defraud his former housekeeper’s heirs after she died in a fall died in the street front steps of the family’s hunting lodge.
The indictment also alleges that Murdaugh conspired with another attorney on this scheme – which also defrauded the insurance company that paid out the insurance settlement.
“Murdaugh’s insurance companies have settled the $505,000 and $3,800,000 estate claim,” according to a federal news release. “The indictment alleges that Murdaugh and the personal injury attorney conspired to skim settlement funds disguised as ‘prosecution costs’ for their own personal gain. The indictment also alleges that Murdaugh instructed Beaufort’s attorney to write checks totaling $3,483,431.95 payable to “Forge.” Murdaugh then deposited the checks into his “fake Forge” account and used the money for personal gain. The estate received no compensation payments.”
More coverage of Law&Crime: Alex Murdaugh is seeking release from $4.3 million judgment in late housekeeper’s sons’ lawsuit
Murdaugh is already serving two consecutive life sentences for the June 2021 murder of his wife and younger son.
The defendant is currently being held at McCormick Correctional Institution, a Palmetto State prison located at 386 Redemption Way, McCormick. If convicted on a federal charge, he would likely be transferred to a federal prison.
A letter of habeas corpus was filed in the case by federal prosecutor Emily Limehouse, according to court filings viewed by Law&Crime. The lawsuit was filed so that Murdaugh could be transferred from McCormick to the US Courthouse in Charleston or to another location where the federal government needs to see him while their case lasts.
Kathleen Michelle Stoughton is currently the lead prosecutor in the case. The case is being administered by US District Judge Richard M. Gergel.
During his double murder trial, the defendant accepted legal responsibility for numerous fraud attempts.
More coverage of Law&Crime: Alex Murdaugh has admitted to dozens of financial crimes and faces more than 700 years in prison for those admissions alone
“Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its attorneys,” US Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said in a press release. “South Carolina residents turn to attorneys when they are most vulnerable, and in our state, those who abuse public trust and profit from fraud, theft and proprietary trading are punished to the fullest extent of the law. We thank the FBI for their tireless work on this case and the Attorney General of South Carolina and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Agency for their work in holding Alex Murdaugh and those who have enabled him to be held accountable in our state system. We remain committed to doing our part to advance these efforts in the federal system.”
Read the full indictment below:
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