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Alex Murdaugh indicted on federal charges for allegedly defrauding estate of housekeeper who died at his home

The former lawyer is serving two consecutive life sentences for murdering his wife and youngest son in 2021.
/ Source: TODAY

Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh was indicted on 22 federal counts of fraud and money laundering on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Murdaugh with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud and 14 counts of money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers," U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said in a statement. "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."

The former lawyer is accused of using three different schemes to obtain money and property from his personal injury clients dating back to at least 2005.

Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, attorneys for Murdaugh, said in a statement to NBC News they anticipate his federal charges will be "quickly resolved without a trial."

"Alex has been cooperating with the United States Attorneys’ Office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities," his attorneys said.

Prosecutors alleged Murdaugh, along with another South Carolina personal injury attorney Cory Fleming, also defrauded the estate of his former housekeeper and his own insurance carriers out of about $3.5 million.

Gloria Satterfield died at Murdaugh's home in 2018 in what has been described as a fall in a 911 call. Murdaugh recommended that Satterfield's family hire Fleming to represent them and sue Murdaugh to collect on his homeowner's insurance policies, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors alleged Murdaugh directed Fleming to draft checks amounting to $3,483,431.95 from the settlement funds intended for the housekeeper's estate and used the money for "his own personal enrichment."

"The estate did not receive any of the settlement funds," which amounted to more than $4.3 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Fleming is scheduled to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Fleming faces a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

In a separate lawsuit accusing Murdaugh of life insurance fraud in Satterfield’s death, Murdaugh's attorneys revealed in a court filing earlier this month he "invented the critical facts" surrounding her death so he could receive millions of dollars in the settlement.

"No dogs were involved in the fall of Gloria Satterfield on February 2, 2018," the filing said. "After Ms. Satterfield’s death, (Murdaugh) invented Ms. Satterfield’s purported statement that dogs caused her fall to force his insurers to make a settlement payment, and he stated that she was not on the property to perform work."

Eric Bland and Ronald Richter, attorneys for the Satterfield estate, said "today has been a great day for justice in South Carolina related to the ongoing criminal investigations into Alex Murdaugh and Cory Fleming" in a statement to NBC News.

"Mr. Fleming has agreed to provide cooperation to the federal authorities, and Dick Harpootlian has indicated that Alex Murdaugh has been cooperating with the United States investigation for some time. This cooperation and the fruit it yields will be interesting," Bland and Richter said. "While it is said that Lady Justice is blind, she is not a sucker. Bottom Line—Can’t run or hide from justice."

The federal charges against Murdaugh carry maximum prison sentences between 10 and 30 years and fines between $250,000 and $1,000,000 million.” 

Murdaugh is also facing 99 separate state charges in South Carolina, stemming from financial crimes he allegedly committed for over a decade while he still worked at his law firm.

He has not entered any plea for the 99 financial crimes he’s charged with, South Carolina Attorney General’s Office Communications Director Robert Kittle told in March, citing the Clerk of Court of the State Grand Jury.

Murdaugh is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for murdering his wife Maggie Murdaugh and youngest son Paul Murdaugh in 2021.