Following a two-month, full-court press by attorneys representing Gloria Satterfield‘s family, another institution has reached a settlement for its alleged role in the $4.3 million wrongful death settlement scheme led by Alex Murdaugh.
South Carolina attorneys Eric Bland and Ronald Richter said Thursday that Palmetto State Bank settled with Gloria’s two sons Tony Satterfield and Brian Harriott for an undisclosed amount. The action ends the pending lawsuit against Palmetto State Bank — and leaves Alex Murdaugh as the only remaining defendant who hasn’t agreed to a settlement.
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, Bland and Richter filed a lawsuit on the Satterfield family’s behalf against Murdaugh, Fleming and others involved in the 2018 settlement. Other defendants included Fleming’s law firm (Moss, Kuhn and Fleming), Chad Westendorf (the banker listed as a representative of Satterfield’s estate), and Palmetto State Bank (the financial institution where Westendorf worked).
Palmetto State Bank is the fifth potentially liable party to have settled or resolved differences with the Satterfield family since Bland and Richter filed their lawsuit. The two attorneys have recovered more than $6.5 million in total for the Satterfield family, Bland told FITSNews.
“The boys’ money will be protected, not squandered,” Bland told FITSNews. “They realize they got a second chance and now have a sacred trust. It will be placed in a way that they won’t be able to be exploited by hangers-on and grifters. In a true kind of way Mallory Beach and Gloria Satterfield’s lives were not lost in vain. They now serve a purpose and they have exposed the system that needs fixing and people that need to lose their livelihoods and licenses because they broke their own sacred trusts.”
In the Satterfield case, Murdaugh and others are accused of making off with millions of dollars from a wrongful death settlement. Murdaugh’s latest charges stem from an investigation by South Carolina attorneys Eric Bland and Ronald Richter — who uncovered a shocking paper trail showing how Alex Murdaugh allegedly stole $3.6 million from Satterfield’s settlement.
After Satterfield died, Murdaugh recruited his best friend Cory Fleming to sue him on behalf of her estate – and convinced Gloria’s sons to sign over their personal representative rights to Westendorf so that Fleming wouldn’t be legally obligated to tell the Satterfield family what was going on with the settlement, according to Bland.
Fleming has apologized to the Satterfields and was suspended from practicing law in October. Fleming claimed he was fooled by his friend Murdaugh, but acknowledged that “material mistakes were made at crucial times.”
Documents filed last month show how Westendorf — and Palmetto State Bank — allegedly played important roles in the scheme.
As a personal representative of an estate, Westendorf was in charge of managing the money and distributing the checks from the settlement. He was also obligated to fulfill his duties as an officer of the court.
When Judge Carmen Mullen approved the $4.3 million settlement in 2019, Westendorf, who still works at Palmetto State Bank, was obligated under court order to distribute $2.8 million to Satterfield’s sons.
“He was supposed to be the backstop if Cory or Alex were doing anything inappropriate, he was supposed to say ‘whoa, whoa whoa… I’m the one distributing the checks and I need to get (Gloria’s sons) their $2.8 million and I have to pay $50,000 to probate court,’” Bland previously said.
Westendorf should have caught the “Forge” scheme, according to Bland. Murdaugh and Fleming allegedly claimed they were doing a structured settlement for Satterfield’s sons through a legitimate company called Forge Consulting LLC. Instead, Fleming made checks out to “Forge” after Murdaugh opened up a Bank of America account under that name.
According to Bland, Westendorf didn’t file a single document on the settlement (beyond the initial petition) during his tenure as a personal representative, yet he collected $30,000 for his role. He finally stepped down as personal representative weeks after Bland and Richter filed a lawsuit against him and others for the scheme.
In a joint statement released on Thursday, Palmetto State Bank appeared to deny its role in the scheme, but settled with the Satterfield family anyway.
“Although Palmetto State Bank never handled the settlement funds nor was it responsible for the alleged actions of Alex Murdaugh, Palmetto State Bank and its board of directors made the business decision to prioritize ending this matter for the mutual benefit of Ms. Satterfield’s sons, its customers and shareholders, and the Hampton community at large,” the statement said.
Before Bland filed a lawsuit, Satterfield’s sons hadn’t received a dime of the $2.8 million they were entitled to receive in the settlement.
Alex Murdaugh is still behind bars after a judge denied him bond for the second time on charges related to the settlement.
To recap, Murdaugh was arrested in Orlando, Florida on October 14 and charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses related to the Gloria Satterfield case, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). .
Now, Murdaugh is the only defendant in the scheme who hasn’t paid the Satterfields any money. And he’s the only remaining defendant in the lawsuit.
However, Bland told FITSNews that “Bank of America is being looked at seriously.”
Murdaugh has to respond to Bland’s lawsuit soon as a deadline is approaching next week. This means he has three options — none of which are good, according to Bland.
He can admit fault in the lawsuit, which is what he did in his brother and law partner’s lawsuits in a move that essentially prioritizes their ability to recover funds over other victims of his alleged financial crimes. If he admits fault, he would be admitting to crimes.
For his second option in the lawsuit, Alex Murdaugh can deny it — which further torpedoes his spiraling reputation considering his shady moves last week, and all of the evidence that has already been stacked against him in this case.
Or he can file a motion and plead the fifth amendment.
Two weeks ago, Bland said the Satterfield family and Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED) had “reconciled their differences” in the case and he will not be suing them. Bland refused to answer other questions about PMPED’s involvement, but it could be assumed that some sort of secret settlement was reached between the two parties.
“We are very proud of the work that we have done on behalf of our clients who are worthy of our efforts. It takes a team approach and some creativity and intense effort,” Bland and Richter said. “The media has been very helpful in disseminating key facts and developments. We put overwhelming force on the target parties. It has been a wild ride.”
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 story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our stories? Or an issue you’d like to address proactively? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your own letter to the editor (or guest column) via-email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.