Alex Murdaugh, disgraced lawyer convicted of killing wife and son, indicted on 22 federal counts
A federal grand jury has returned a 22-count indictment against Alex Murdaugh, the South Carolina lawyer who was found guilty of killing his wife and son earlier this year.
Murdaugh, a former personal injury attorney, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on one count of murder each in the deaths of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, as well as two counts of possession of a weapon during a crime. In addition to the murder charges, he faces nearly 100 counts of various financial crimes including fraud and money laundering.
The new charges are separate from those dozens of counts, and were announced by the United States Attorney's Office's District of South Carolina on Wednesday morning.
The 22-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, and alleges that Murdaugh engaged in three different plots to take money and property from personal injury clients over the course of years.
According to a news release announcing the charges, in one scheme that ran from 2005 to 2021, Murdaugh allegedly worked to defraud and take money from clients who received settlement funds. He allegedly directed settlement funds to himself by using incorrect forms, claiming funds as attorney's fees and disbursing them to himself, claiming false fees, creating fraudulent expenses, disbursing fees to himself instead of routing them through his law firm, and intercepting insurance money meant for beneficiaries and putting the money in his personal account.
In a second plot, Murdaugh allegedly conspired with his banker, Russell Laffitte, for at least a decade to commit wire and bank fraud. The indictment alleges that Laffitte, who was convicted on federal charges for his role in the scheme in 2022, served as Murdaugh's personal representative for personal injury clients. In this role, Laffitte collected over $350,000 in fees. As part of the plot, Murdaugh directed employees to make settlement checks payable to "Palmetto State Bank," but the checks were then delivered to Laffitte. Murdaugh then directed Laffitte to use the checks "for Murdaugh's benefit," the district attorney's office said. The funds were then allegedly used for Murdaugh's loans and expenses, as well as cash withdrawals.
In a third alleged scheme, Murdaugh created a bank account, called "Forge," in Sept. 2015. Murdaugh allegedly presented the account as a legitimate corporation for structuring insurance settlements, and from in or around May 2017 through at least July 2021, he allegedly funneled stolen personal injury settlements through the account. Fourteen of the charges against Murdaugh, all for money laundering, are related to this account, for which Murdaugh was the only authorized signer.
Separate from the three schemes are allegations in the indictment that Murdaugh conspired with another personal injury attorney to defraud his former housekeeper's estate and his homeowner's insurance carriers. In Feb. 2018, Murdaugh's housekeeper died after falling at his home. Murdaugh recommended the housekeeper's estate hire the other personal injury attorney to file a claim against him and collect from his homeowner's insurance. The claim was settled, but the indictment alleges that Murdaugh and the other attorney conspired to siphon settlement funds for personal use. The second attorney allegedly sent checks totaling nearly $3.5 million to the "Forge" account used in the third scheme. The estate of the housekeeper did not receive any settlement funds. Murdaugh has previously been charged with two counts of obtaining property under false pretenses for these events.
Murdaugh's lawyers, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, told CBS News they believe the charges will not go to trial.
"Alex has been cooperating with the United States Attorneys' Office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities," they said. "We anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial."
The 22 charges carry financial and jail time penalties.
"Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers," said U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina Adair Boroughs in the news release announcing the charges. "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," she said. "We remain committed to doing our part to further that effort in the federal system."
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