by MANDY MATNEY and LIZ FARRELL || On the eve of a now-postponed bond hearing that many perceived as part of a behind-the-scenes plan to free Alex Murdaugh, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office announced that the statewide grand jury had handed down seven more indictments representing an additional 21 charges against the suspended Hampton County attorney.
Murdaugh, who was arrested Oct. 14, is being held without bond at the Richland County Detention Center. He now faces a total of 53 charges in crimes that include fraud, theft, money laundering, forgery and lying to police in a Labor Day shooting incident.
”This guy is taking advantage of people he’s known since they were in diapers,” a source close to the investigations into Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes told FITSNews.com on Thursday shortly after the latest indictments were handed down.
The new charges include:
- 9 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent Intent
- 7 counts of computer crimes
- 4 counts of money laundering
- 1 count of forgery
Late Thursday, The Island Packet reported that Murdaugh’s attorney Jim Griffin did not know about the charges until they were announced by the Attorney General’s Office.
The new charges come just three weeks after Murdaugh was indicted by the state Grand Jury on 27 charges for allegedly stealing nearly $5 million from his now-former law firm and his clients, including a law enforcement officer who was injured in the line of duty and the heirs of the woman who helped raise Murdaugh’s children.
As of Thursday, Murdaugh is accused of stealing more than $6.2 million in alleged schemes dating back to 2016.
Murdaugh stands accused of creating bank accounts under a fake business name that closely resembled that of Forge Consulting LLC, a legitimate agency that is used by lawyers to manage settlement money for clients.
In June 2016, Murdaugh allegedly told his client Johnny Bush that he had spent $100,000 of his settlement money on accident reconstruction for Bush’s case. Instead, Murdaugh had a check written for $95,000 to “Forge,” under the guise that the money was for Bush’s “structured funds.”
Murdaugh allegedly deposited the money in a “Forge” bank account and used the money for himself, withdrawing some as cash, paying credit card bills and writing checks to associates.
In August 2016, Murdaugh allegedly had a $90,000 check written from his now-former law firm’s client trust account with the description “RE: Jamian Risher” and made out to “Forge.” The money “was supposed to be compensation to Jamian Risher (of Hampton County) for his injuries.”
Murdaugh then deposited the money in his Forge bank account and used the money to pay his credit cards, withdraw as cash and write checks to himself and associates, according to the indictments.
Three years later, between August and November 2019, Murdaugh is accused of using more than $5,000 of Risher’s settlement money for personal travel to New York. Murdaugh allegedly pretended that the more than $5,000 he spent on the flight and meals was an expense related to Risher’s case.
In August 2018, Murdaugh allegedly convinced Jordan Jinks, a longtime friend of the family who had come to Murdaugh for help, that his now-former law firm had to hold $85,000 of Jinks’ settlement proceeds to “satisfy a medical insurance lien.”
Murdaugh is accused of taking the money for himself and depositing it into his Forge bank account, which he used for credit card payments, withdrew as cash and wrote checks to associates.
Murdaugh is accused of doing this same thing two months later with an additional $65,000 of Jinks’ settlement money, again telling Jinks that the money was to pay a medical lien stemming from Jinks’ injuries.
Murdaugh is also accused of forging Jinks’ signature on a “disbursement sheet” in which Jinks was ostensibly acknowledging and approving that he received the money that Murdaugh allegedly stole.
In April 2019, Murdaugh is accused of gaining the trust of the personal representative for the Blondell Gary estate in Hampton County and taking $112,500 of the estate’s money from his now former law firm’s client trust account. Murdaugh allegedly deposited this money in his Forge bank account and used it to pay family members, pay credit card bills, withdraw as cash and write checks to associates.
Between February and July 2020, a man named Christopher Anderson came to Alex Murdaugh for help. Anderson, of Hampton County, was hurt on the job and was supposed to receive a $750,000 check for his injuries, according to court documents.
Through his “Forge account” Murdaugh stole the $750,000 from Anderson and told him that the money was being held in an annuity account for structured settlements, according to the indictment.
Between November and December 2020, Murdaugh convinced a Colleton County client who was representing the estate of Sandra Taylor that the total wrongful death recovery of the estate would only be $30,000 and that he wasn’t going to take a fee because it was “so low,” according to the indictment.
Murdaugh actually recovered more than $180,000 in the settlement and stole more than $150,000 through his infamous “Forge” account, according to the indictment.
Latest Bond Hearing
A bond hearing for Murdaugh — on the 27 charges he received the week of Nov. 15 — was scheduled for online at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 10, according to Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office.
However, late Thursday evening the decision was made to postpone the hearing, according to sources close to the investigation.
Judge Alison Lee will preside over the hearing Friday due to a recent move by the S.C. Supreme Court that some have seen as a concerning contradiction to an earlier judicial assignment.
Judge Clifton Newman was hand-picked by the court in September to handle criminal matters related to Alex Murdaugh. The assignment was made in a good faith as a way to address any public worry that the Murdaugh family’s influence could result in conflicts of interest or even favoritism in the courtroom.
After Judge Newman denied Murdaugh bond in October, Murdaugh’s attorneys moved to override the judge’s decision and filed a writ of habeas corpus with the state Supreme Court. The court has not yet ruled on that request.
Then last week, the S.C. Supreme court issued an order stating that Lee, the current responding judge of the state grand jury, will handle initial bail matters for Alex Murdaugh on charges that were brought by the state grand jury.
Lee has been criticized by this news outlet multiple times for giving bond to violent offenders in the past.
In fact, she was blocked from becoming a federal judge because of her penchant for excessive judicial leniency.
Lee also was denied a seat on the S.C. appeals court because lawmakers were concerned about her doling out bond to violent criminals.
On Thursday, our founding editor Will Folks wrote about the reactions some in the legal community have had to Lee’s assignment:
“The specific wording of the order (above) is troubling as it authorizes Lee to set bail and hear “any motions to adjust the amount or conditions of bail for defendants” indicted by the statewide grand jury.
“‘Defendants’ being the operative word …
“Some attorneys have speculated Harpootlian and Griffin will argue Lee is empowered to address Newman’s denial of bond because Murdaugh is a defendant under indictment by the statewide grand jury – even though the charges on which he is currently detained were filed in the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit.”
Growing Legal Problems for Murdaugh
In addition to his litany of criminal charges, Murdaugh, 53, is also a defendant in seven active civil complaints — three of which are related to a 2019 fatal boat crash involving his son Paul, who was murdered alongside his mother this past June.
Murdaugh was named a person of interest in the murders, according to his own attorney Jim Griffin. There have been no arrests made thus far.
He is being sued in two separate actions by his brother and a former law partner for a combined total of more than $500,000 in unpaid debts. He has signed two “confessions of judgment” in those cases, which ostensibly prioritizes those debts over others.
He is also being sued by the family of Gloria Satterfield, from whom he is alleged to have stolen $3.6 million, and by his former law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick, who say he “converted” client and firm money into personal use.
A federal lawsuit filed by his insurance company in 2019 was dismissed in September.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is currently investigating several cases potentially connected to Murdaugh, including:
- the double homicide
- allegations of obstructing justice in the boat crash investigation
- financial irregularities reported by his now-former law firm
- the 2018 suspicious death of the Murdaugh’s domestic employee, Gloria Satterfield
- the 2015 suspicious death of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old Hampton man and former classmate of Murdaugh’s older son, Buster
- allegations of scheming to steal and launder settlement money from an unknown number of clients
The South Carolina Bar suspended Alex Murdaugh’s license to practice law in September.
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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].
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Liz Farrell is the new executive editor at FITSNews. She was named 2018’s top columnist in the state by South Carolina Press Association and is back after taking a nearly two-year break from corporate journalism to reclaim her soul. Email her at [email protected] or tweet her @ElizFarrell.
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