Less than two weeks after denying they had any role in the Gloria Satterfield settlement, partners at the Murdaugh family law firm — Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED) — now have a lot of explaining to do after new court documents allege that the Hampton, South Carolina firm participated in the fraudulent scheme to steal millions from Satterfield’s sons.
Satterfield, who was the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper for more than two decades, died after an alleged trip and fall accident at Alex Murdaugh’s home in February 2018. On September 15, 2021, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) opened up an investigation into Satterfield’s death and her wrongful death settlement after a Hampton County Coroner found inconsistencies in her death.
Days after SLED opened its investigation, FITSNews published a shocking report that revealed how Alex Murdaugh allegedly worked with his two friends Cory Fleming, an attorney, and Chad Westendorf, a banker, in a scheme to take millions of dollars from Satterfield’s sons after her $4.3 million secret settlement was approved by judge Carmen Mullen in 2019.
The motion filed Tuesday by Eric Bland — who is representing Satterfield’s two sons in a lawsuit against Murdaugh and his two co-conspirators — asks to bring Fleming, Westendorf and Murdaugh into court to testify under oath about what happened to the settlement funds.
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Bland is also asking a judge to hold Murdaugh and his co-conspirators in contempt of court “for the blatant and willful violations of court orders,” according to the motion.
The motion is accompanied by damning documents that show PMPED employees — aside from Alex Murdaugh — were aware of the settlement.
The documents display a clear paper trail indicating that Alex Murdaugh committed financial crimes and Fleming, at the very least, violated rules of professional conduct as an attorney.
According to court documents, $2.8 million of Satterfield’s settlement was supposed to go to her sons, who are the only beneficiaries of her estate.
However, Satterfield’s two sons hadn’t received a single dime from their mother’s wrongful death settlement — until Friday, when Fleming and his law firm Moss, Kuhn & Fleming agreed to a settlement in the malpractice case.
On Tuesday, Bland received a check from Westendorf for the $30,000 he accepted in the case — which means Alex Murdaugh is the only party remaining who has not agreed to pay back money from the settlement.
Fleming, the attorney who originally represented Satterfield’s sons and Murdaugh’s lifelong friend, decided to come clean and pay back the money they took in legal fees — only after multiple media reports and a lawsuit pressured them to do so, according to Bland.
In fact, one of Fleming’s law firm partners told the Island Packet newspaper on September 24 that he was planning on filing a countersuit against Satterfield’s estate, claiming the accusations made in the lawsuit were false.
Just one week after making that claim, Fleming’s law firm agreed to settle in the lawsuit.
On September 10, Bland sent Fleming a notice asking him to produce all of the materials related to the Satterfield settlement (which was first reported by FITSNews on September 14).
Finally, after the Satterfield story made headlines in nearly every major news outlet in the U.S. throughout September, Fleming turned over his documents to Bland on September 29.
Those documents, which appear to provide evidence against several powerful players, are included in the most recent motion.
Documents filed Tuesday show emails and letters from Alex Murdaugh and his paralegals acting as representatives of the estate of Gloria Satterfield in the wrongful death settlement.
That would be Alex Murdaugh — the only defendant in the settlement — claiming to represent Satterfield’s sons, who are the plaintiffs.
Considering this egregious conflict of interest, how would that not raise major red flags at 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.
(See copy of one of the letters below)
“The Murdaugh law firm sent out all of these documents saying that they were representing the estate, which means they had a duty to protect the estate and its money,” Bland said.
The documents directly contradict a statement published by the firm on September 24 (posted below) claiming that PMPED partners were “stunned” by media reports about the Satterfield fraud scheme.
So was PMPED really stunned by the accusations or did they know and hope no one would find out?
“It’s hypocrisy at its best,” Bland said. “To claim that they’re victims of Alex’s fraud…. maybe if they did a better job of supervising their attorneys like the rule of professional conduct say…. maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”
The documents also show that judge Carmen Mullen, who has ties to the Murdaugh family, held two hearings in the case — neither of which were on the record.
Recently, Bland filed a motion asking that Mullen detain Alex Murdaugh for his role in the Satterfield settlement settlement based on a South Carolina law that states a person can be arrested in a civil case without criminal charges in some circumstances.
“She responded and said she couldn’t hear the motion because she’s a witness to all of the facts,” Bland said. “So I viewed that is an invitation.”
Bland then filed a motion to depose Mullen on October 20. Mullen has not responded.
“It’s very rare to be able to depose a judge,” Bland said.
Bland has questions for Mullen, who stands accused of approving a settlement that was mostly off the books and in major violation of procedure. He said Mullen should not have even heard the settlement proposal considering that the case didn’t have a number and was never in the system.
The documents — which were secretly filed in April and May of 2019, around the time the Murdaughs had just emerged into the media spotlight following the fatal boat crash that killed Mallory Beach — also mysteriously did not list Alex Murdaugh’s name as the defendant. It appears that he convinced the court to take his name off of it — a luxury most South Carolina citizens do not have when they admit fault in the wrongful death of another human being.
The Satterfield family was told that Gloria tripped on the steps at the Murdaugh’s home on February 2, 2018. They were told the Murdaughs’ dogs caused her to trip – causing a fall which resulted in her sustaining a traumatic brain injury.
Despite some documents stating that the accident took place in Hampton, South Carolina, the incident allegedly took place at the Moselle property in Colleton County — the same property where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found murdered on June 7, 2021.
Now, authorities are investigating both Satterfield’s death and possible crimes related to the settlement.
How the scheme worked
At Gloria’s funeral, Alex allegedly started railroading her sons and convinced them to hire his friend Cory Fleming to get money for their mother’s death, according to Bland.
However, Satterfield’s sons did not know that Fleming was Murdaugh’s former college roommate, best friend and Buster Murdaugh’s godfather, according to the lawsuit.
Alex Murdaugh also convinced Gloria’s sons that they needed to have a banker (Westendorf) work as their personal representative of Gloria’s estate, according to the lawsuit.
Bland later learned that Alex Murdaugh’s insurance company actually settled for more than $4.3 million — with $2.8 million that was supposed to go to his clients.
Murdaugh and Fleming apparently claimed they were doing a structured settlement for Satterfield’s sons, although this was never disclosed to the court. Essentially, this would work like a trust — instead of getting a lump sum, the plaintiff would receive more money over time with tax breaks.
Murdaugh claimed that he set up an annuity account for Satterfield’s sons through a company called Forge Consulting LLC.
“The only problem is Cory never got any documents from Forge and he’s taking direction from the defendant (Murdaugh), who tells him after you take your fees, write the check to “Forge” and send it to a P.O box in Hampton, South Carolina.”
Alex Murdaugh allegedly told Fleming to make checks out to “Forge” — not Forge Consulting LLC — after he set up an account with that name.
“Alex Murdaugh opened up a bank account at Bank of America under the name of Forge, got the check cashed and walked away with the money,” Bland said.
Fleming is claiming that the only money he received in the settlement was from legal fees, according to Bland.
He told Bland he was victimized and fooled by Alex Murdaugh.
It appears that after the Murdaugh family was thrust into the limelight following the boat crash, Alex Murdaugh was able to convince the court to drop his name from the caption of the document where it typically would state Gloria Satterfield vs. Alex Murdaugh.
See a screenshot from the order below…
According to Bland, the order is concerning for a number of reasons.
- Alex’s name is not listed as a defendant at the top as it should be. Alex did not ask the court for permission to remove his name.
- There is no docket number listed on the document.
- The document was not entered into the court record (these documents always have dates and court information on the side).
Mullen signed the order on May 13, 2019 — days after Paul Murdaugh’s bond hearing for his three felony charges in the boat crash.
So why did Mullen approve the settlement?
Now, Mullen, Fleming, Murdaugh, Westendorf, and anyone else allegedly involved in this scheme should have to answer some tough questions about how this settlement went down and where the money went.
Bland won’t stop until those questions are answered.
“My goal is that at the end of the day is for my clients to get their full $4.3 million, because none of these people earned their fees,” Bland said. “You don’t get to earn fees when you steal.”
Unlike Alex Murdaugh, Fleming has not been suspended by the South Carolina Supreme Court and is still a practicing attorney.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR..
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to [email protected].
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