South Carolina legal scion Alex Murdaugh faces criminal charges—again.
The 53-year-old lawyer already accused of orchestrating his own murder for an insurance payout has been criminally charged in connection with millions of “misappropriated settlement funds” in the death of his former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, authorities announced Thursday.
He was taken into custody Thursday morning and charged with two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses after being released from his drug facility in Orlando, Florida. His lawyers confirmed to The Daily Beast that Murdaugh will appear in court at a bond hearing on Friday.
“Today is merely one more step in a long process for justice for the many victims in these investigations. I want to commend the hard work and dedication that our agents have shown over the last four months,” South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said in a statement announcing the charges. “They will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of those who were victimized by Alex Murdaugh and others. As I have said previously, we are committed to following the facts wherever they may lead us and we will not stop until justice is served.”
Eric Bland, the attorney for the housekeeper’s two sons, said in a statement to The Daily Beast that the news of Murdaugh’s arrest marked “a bittersweet day” for his clients.
“Avarice and betrayal of trust are at the heart of this matter. Lawsuits and claims are not vehicles for lawyers, defendants and/or friends to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients,” Bland added.
Murdaugh’s lawyers, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, said he is cooperating with the Satterfield probe, as well as the investigation into his wife and son’s June murder. On Wednesday, Griffin admitted that Murdaugh has been a person of interest in that case “from the get-go.”
“He deeply regrets that his actions have distracted from the efforts to solve their murders,” the lawyers said Thursday.
The charges mark the latest in a twisted legal saga surrounding the once powerful legal dynasty. In the last month, Murdaugh has been ousted from his law firm after allegedly funneling millions into a fake bank account, been identified as a person of interest in the murders of his wife and son, and admitted to a decades-long addiction to opioids.
Murdaugh has also fessed up to the shocking staging of his own murder in an attempt to leave a $10 million life insurance payout to his remaining son, Buster, after initially telling police he was attacked by a stranger.
The elaborate scheme came just three months after Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son Paul were found murdered outside their Hampton County estate. At the time, Paul was facing charges for a 2019 boat crash that killed a teenage girl.
The former high-powered lawyer also has been implicated in a series of lawsuits, ranging from allegations he conspired to influence the 2019 investigation to claims he swindled millions from Satterfield’s wrongful death lawsuit meant for her sons.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Satterfield’s sons alleges that after the housekeeper died on Murdaugh property in 2018, her estate was supposed to receive at least $4.3 million as part of a settlement from the scion’s insurance company. But, Tony Satterfield and Brian Harriot have yet to receive a dime of the court-approved 2019 settlement money, which Murdaugh has been accused of diverting to a fake bank account.
“Since early September the families are dealing with the betrayal of trust and that their loved one’s death was used as a vehicle to enrich others over the clients,” Bland said Thursday. “Nonetheless, the families and lawyers would like to thank the public for the continued support and assistance it has given to solve these ugly crimes. It is not over. A very good start to holding everyone accountable who either participated knowingly or breached their duties. The bottom line is no one is above the law.”
Satterfield’s sons also allege that Murdaugh encouraged them to use Cory Fleming as their lawyer—without disclosing that the attorney was his college roommate and best friend. Fleming has since been suspended from practicing law pending an investigation into his involvement in the Satterfield settlement, and has admitted he made “material mistakes” while representing the housekeeper’s sons.
“When it came time to disburse the settlement funds, Mr. Fleming trusted his close friend and colleague to deal with him truthfully and honorably, only to be misled and deceived in one of the worst possible ways for a lawyer: Alex Murdaugh lied to Mr. Fleming to steal client funds,” Fleming said in a statement last week.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced last month it was 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 Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper, who said there were “inconsistencies” surrounding Satterfield’s death—including that no autopsy was ever performed.