South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh allegedly diverted millions of dollars from a wrongful death settlement meant for the sons of his family’s former housekeeper and nanny, according to new court papers.
Court documents, first reported by The State, allege that after Gloria Satterfield died on Murdaugh property in 2018, her sons were supposed to receive upward of $4.3 million in a wrongful death lawsuit from the scion’s insurance company. Instead, Tony Satterfield and Brian Harriot have yet to receive a dime of the court-approved 2019 settlement now believed to have been diverted to a bank account set up by Murdaugh himself.
Copies of the at least four checks provided in Tuesday’s filing show the exact amounts of the settlement that was approved by a judge. The checks, which were made out to “Forge” and allegedly sent to a P.O. Box in Hampton County, South Carolina, were never received by Satterfield’s family, according to the court documents.
“The more we find out about the settlement, the more questions we have about Alex Murdaugh’s role,” Eric Bland, who is representing Satterfield’s sons, told The Daily Beast in September. “The Murdaughs considered Gloria family—so knowing that her sons have not seen a dime of the settlement Alex encouraged is concerning.”
While the allegation that Murdaugh conspired to reallocate money from the settlement had been previously made in a lawsuit filed by Satterfield’s sons last month, the new court filing provides new details into how the attorney allegedly directed others to move the funds. Murdaugh’s legal team did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Tuesday’s filing also accuses Murdaugh’s former law firm of being aware of the settlement early on—despite a statement on its website denying any involvement in the Satterfield case in the latest eerie twist in a cascading legal soap era. The filing has requested that Murdaugh and two of his alleged conspirators testify under oath in court about the settlement, alleging that the group must be held in contempt of court “for the blatant and willful violations” of previous orders.
Questions about Satterfield’s death and settlement represent just one branch of the sprawling mystery associated with the embattled Murdaugh legal dynasty, which has also been hit with allegations involving embezzlement, drug addiction, a fatal boat crash, a botched staged murder, and at least two homicides.
The family, once known for effectively being the law in the South Carolina Lowcountry, was first thrust into the national spotlight in June, after Murdaugh’s wife and son were found fatally shot at their estate. At the time, the son, Paul, was facing criminal charges over his role in a fatal 2019 boat crash.
Then, early this month, things took a turn for the truly surreal when police say Alex Murdaugh, 53, and his former drug dealer attempt to stage his murder to arrange an insurance payout to his surviving son, Buster. Both Alex Murdaugh—who was allowed to leave jail and go to rehab in another state—and the alleged dealer face criminal charges in the bizarre episode.
In addition to the murders and Murdaugh’s twisted suicide insurance ploy, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is investigating Satterfield’s death, which was initially described in a wrongful death settlement as a “trip and fall accident.” The investigation came at the request of a local coroner, who said there were “inconsistencies'' surrounding Satterfield’s death—and noted that no autopsy was ever performed.
The SLED investigation was announced just hours after Satterfied’s sons filed a bombshell lawsuit against several individuals—including Murdaugh—over the settlement for her death.
The suit, and subsequent court filings, allege that after Satterfield’s death, Murdaugh told her sons that the accident “was his fault” and encouraged them to file a claim against him. Murdaugh then introduced them to Cory Fleming, who has been described in court documents as the scion’s former college roommate and best friend.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Fleming has also been accused of trying to help direct the blame away from Paul Murdaugh and onto another passenger in the fatal 2019 boat crash.
“It was Alex’s idea to take these boys to Cory Fleming,” Bland previously told The Daily Beast. “It was an unusual situation to bring a claim against Alex personally so that Alex could turn it over to his insurance.”
The suit alleges that soon after Satterfield’s sons retained Fleming as their lawyer, the pair never heard about any “meaningful developments” in the case. The new court filing also alleges that at one point the sons were even retained by Murdaugh’s former law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, and Detrick (PMPED).
“PMPED sent letters of representation of the Estate to third parties, prepared probate documents for the Estate and the Personal Representative of the Estate, notarized probate documents and exchanged emails with Cory Fleming, also attorney for the Personal Representative and the beneficiaries of the Estate about the settlement funds,” the motion said.
The documents also state that Fleming made two separate wrongful death claims against Murdaugh: one for $505,000 and the other for $3.8 million. Of the latter, $2.76 million would go to Satterfield’s sons—and the rest to legal fees, according to The State.
According to the lawsuit, a judge approved both claims and the checks were signed “Forge” by Fleming’s law firm, Moss, Kuhn, & Fleming. Fleming and his firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Forge Consulting LLC, a financial firm known for helping with settlement agreements, denied involvement with Alex Murdaugh in a statement to The Daily Beast last month—and said that when it heard about the settlement and learned of the alleged account bearing the company name, it reported those details to law enforcement.
“Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Murdaugh, and possibly others working with him, leveraged the Forge Consulting name and reputation by establishing a bank account titled ‘Forge’ without our knowledge or consent,” the company said, adding it had “no involvement in or knowledge of the alleged inappropriate conduct of Alex Murdaugh.”
In a statement on Sunday, Bland announced it has finally reached a settlement with Fleming and his law firm and that Satterfield’s sons intend to pursue “other culpable parties who resist acceptance of responsibility for their part in this tragic matter.”
In a joint statement sent to the Daily Beast on Monday, Bland, Fleming and his firm all insisted that Fleming did not know the settlement funds “had been stolen” until last month—and had made every effort to do right by Satterfield's children.
The statement added that Fleming was “misled and deceived in one of the worst possible ways for a lawyer: Alex Murdaugh lied to Mr. Fleming to steal client funds.”