by LIZ FARRELL and MANDY MATNEY ||
The state grand jury has handed down four new indictments against disgraced Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh, according to a Friday morning news release from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
One of the indictments replaces a November indictment, adding a Breach of Trust charge to Murdaugh’s total count.
The new indictments:
- Bring Murdaugh’s total charges to 74.
- Add another $2,273,960 to the amount Murdaugh is accused of stealing from clients and his law firm, bringing the total from $6.2 million to more than $8.4 million.
- Show that Murdaugh’s alleged schemes go back to at least 2011, four years prior to when he is accused of opening two fraudulent Bank of America accounts in the name “Forge,” an intentionally similar name to that of a legitimate brokerage business used by lawyers to structure settlements.
- Give more insight into the role Palmetto State Bank, a fourth generation family-owned bank in Hampton County, allegedly played in Murdaugh’s alleged schemes.
- Include the case of Hakeem Pinckney — a deaf man who became quadriplegic after a horrific car crash in 2009. He died in 2011 after his ventilator was unplugged, according to a lawsuit filed by Peters Murdaugh Parker Elztroth and Detrick attorney Lee Cope.
Before Thursday, Murdaugh was facing 51 charges related to multiple complex financial schemes, including a purported murder-for-hire insurance scam and the alleged theft and laundering of more than $6.2 million in client settlement funds, including millions from the family of the woman who helped raise his children.
Sources told FITSNews this week that inclement weather in the Upstate and other factors affected the number of cases the state grand jury was able to consider this week. More indictments against Murdaugh and his alleged co-conspirators are expected in the coming months.
This is at least the third time the state grand jury has met to review cases involving Murdaugh.
Murdaugh continues to be held at Richland County Detention Center in lieu of a $7 million bond that his attorneys, state Sen. Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, say is unconstitutional and beyond his reach to pay.
Murdaugh is also the only publicly named person of interest in the June 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul. As FITSNews exclusively reported two weeks ago, direct physical evidence puts Murdaugh at the scene at the time of the homicides.
No arrests have yet been made in their killings.
Harpootlian and Griffin have tried but failed to get Murdaugh out of jail five times since his second arrest on Oct. 14. Their efforts have included an end-run around the judge who was appointed in late September to handle “all” cases related to Murdaugh. This judge subsequently ordered that Murdaugh be held without bond and reaffirmed that ruling after Murdaugh was evaluated by a psychiatrist.
A second judge was introduced in December to handle bond hearings related to Murdaugh’s state grand jury indictments and twice determined that Murdaugh was a flight risk and a danger to himself, as well as the community.
A third judge was assigned this month to handle the seven indictments handed down against Murdaugh in December.
Murdaugh now faces:
- 32 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent Intent
- 19 counts of computer crimes
- 11 counts of money laundering
- 7 counts of obtaining signature or property by false pretenses
- 2 counts of forgery
- As well as 1 count each of insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filling a false police report for a Labor Day weekend roadside “shooting incident.”
Indictment No. 1: Arthur Badger
Beginning in February 2013 and June 2014, Murdaugh is accused of stealing $1,325,000 from Arthur Badger, an Allendale County man whose wife was killed in a 2011 vehicle crash.
Murdaugh allegedly stole from Badger 14 times during that time and faces 15 criminal charges in the case — 14 counts of Breach of Trust with Fraudulent Intent Value $10,000 or More and one count of Computer Crime Value $10,000 or More.
The alleged thefts started with a $388,687.50 check that was made out to Palmetto State Bank and taken from PMPED’s client trust account. Murdaugh allegedly used that money to buy a money order “payable to a business associate.”
Murdaugh allegedly stole another $75,000 from Badger by having a check made out from the client trust account in his name to Palmetto State Bank. That money was allegedly then used to purchase a “money order payable to a family member.”
Around this same time, Murdaugh allegedly had another check — this time for $151,726.05 — made out to Palmetto State Bank from the client trust account. He allegedly deposited that money into “a conservator’s account for a different person from which Murdaugh had previously been allowed to borrow money.”
In September 2013, Murdaugh allegedly did this same thing with $33,789.83 of Badger’s money, again depositing it into a conservatorship account for another person.
The next month he allegedly had a check for $101,369.49 from Badger’s money made out to Palmetto State Bank and used that money to purchase money orders “payable to the conservatorship of another person and a family member.”
A few weeks later he allegedly did the same thing in the same amount but this time deposited the money into the conservator’s account for a different person and used the money to pay personal debts.
A day after that, he allegedly had a check made out for $50,684.75 from Badger’s money to Palmetto State Bank and used it to “fund a wire to a company and otherwise obtain cash.”
In December 2013, Murdaugh allegedly had a check made out for $33,789.83 from Badger’s money to Palmetto State Bank and used the money to “purchase a money order payable to an auto dealer and to otherwise obtain cash.”
Later in the month he allegedly did it twice more. Once for $101,369.49 — an amount used two times previously. That money was allegedly deposited into a conservator’s account for another person and used it to pay personal debts. The other time was for $50,684.75 – an amount used once before. That money was allegedly used to wire money and buy money orders for “personal use” and to convert to cash.
In January 2014, Murdaugh allegedly had another check written for $50,684.75 from Badger’s money to Palmetto State Bank and deposited it into his personal account at the bank. Later in the month he allegedly did the same thing with $33,789.83 — an exact amount used twice before.
In May 2014, Murdaugh is once again accused of having a check written for $50,684.75 from Badger’s money to Bank of America. He allegedly used the money to pay a Bank of America credit card.
The next month he accused of doing the same thing twice more but in the amount of $101,369.49 each time.
Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank who was suspended then fired by the bank’s board of directors earlier this month, was the personal representative of Badger’s wife’s estate. He is likely to face charges in the near future for this case and others.
Indictment No. 2: Deon Martin
In October 2015, Murdaugh is accused of taking $338,056.14 that was supposed to be invested on behalf of his client, Deon J. Martin, of Allendale County.
The check was supposed to be compensation for Martin’s injuries.
Just over a year later, Murdaugh is accused of taking an additional $45,000 from Martin’s settlement.
Murdaugh allegedly deposited both checks into his fake Forge account and spent the money on personal expenses.
Martin was first identified in November as an alleged victim of Murdaugh.
On Nov. 18, Murdaugh was indicted on four charges in Martin’s case: two counts of Breach of Trust with Fraudulent Intent Value $10,000 or More and two counts of Computer Crime Value $10,000 or More.
The new indictment adds a fifth count of Breach of Trust with Fraudulent Intent Value $10,000 or More, noting that around Aug. 20, 2015, Murdaugh allegedly told Martin that $500,000 in settlement funds had been recovered and were being sent to Forge Consulting LLC, the legitimate company, to establish an annuity on Martin’s behalf.
Murdaugh then allegedly kept a $200,000 “fee” for obtaining the $500,000, however “no such $500,000 was ever recovered, nor was any such money ever sent to Forge Consulting LLC”
“Murdaugh knowingly and dishonestly asserted the recovery of phantom funds for the purpose of artificially inflating the fee he could retain from funds he held in trust for Martin’s benefit,” the new indictment reads.
Indictment No. 3: Hakeem Pinckney
Murdaugh is accused of convincing Pamela Pinckney that she needed to hire his best friend Cory Fleming when they sued a tire company for the 2009 car accident that left Hakeem paralyzed from the neck down.
Then, Murdaugh “caused” Fleming to make out a settlement check for $89,133.44 to be made to the PMPED trust account. Murdaugh then took that money and deposited it in his fake “Forge” account.
Murdaugh is accused of stealing $309,581 from the estate of Hakeem Pinckney just months after he died on December 21, 2011.
According to the indictments, Murdaugh took a check with the description “settlement proceeds: Hakeem L. Pinckney” that was made out to Palmetto State Bank to be disbursed from the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, and Detrick (PMPED) account.
That money was supposed to go to Hakeem’s family to pay for the massive medical bills they endured after two years of Hakeem breathing through a ventilator.
Murdaugh is charged with two counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent and two counts of computer crimes for Hakeem Pinckney’s case.
Russell Laffitte was the personal representative of Hakeem’s estate. He is likely to face charges in the near future for this case and others.
“If you’d steal money from somebody in Hakeem’s position, what wouldn’t you do?” state Rep. Justin Bamberg, the Pinckney family’s attorney, told FITSNews earlier this week. ”That’s what I’ve been thinking about. What wouldn’t you do? Because that’s cold. That is cold as hell to do that.”
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Indictment No. 4: Natarsha Thomas
Hakeem Pinckney’s cousin Natarsha Thomas was a passenger in the car accident that left Hakeem paralyzed. She was also injured in the car accident.
Along with Hakeem, Alex Murdaugh also represented her in the lawsuit against the tire company in 2010.
According to the indictments, Murdaugh is accused of making a $325,000 check to Palmetto State Bank and disbursed to the PMPED client trust account. This happened on December 21, 2011 — just two months after Hakeem died.
“Murdaugh then used the $325,000 trust account check- which was supposed to be compensation to Thomas for her injuries — to purchase a money order payable to a family member,” the indictment said.
The indictment did not specify which family member Alex gave this money to — but FITSNews will try to find out.
In August 2012 Murdaugh “caused a check with the description ‘Settlement Proceeds – Natasha Thomas’, in the amount of $25,245.08” made out to Palmetto State Bank from PMPED’s Client Trust Account.”
Instead of giving that money to Natarsha Murdaugh “used the check to purchase money orders also payable to Palmetto State Bank and to obtain cash for personal use,” the indictment said.
In the Thomas case, Murdaugh faces two breach of trust with fraudulent intent counts and one computer crime charge.
Russell Laffitte was the conservator of Thomas’ estate. He is likely to face charges in the near future for this case and others.
In total, Murdaugh is accused of stealing approximately $1 million from the Pinckney family, although he hasn’t been charged for all of the checks yet. Murdaugh and others will likely face more charges related to the Pinckney case.
The Older Indictments
Prior to Thursday, the state grand jury had indicted Murdaugh 12 times on similar charges. One of those indictments was superseded — or replaced — by a new indictment Thursday.
The previous indictments were:
Johnny Bush: In June 2016, Murdaugh allegedly told Bush, who was his client, that he had spent $100,000 of his settlement money on accident reconstruction for his case. Instead, Murdaugh is alleged to have had a check written for $95,000 to “Forge,” under the guise that the money was for Bush’s “structured funds.”
Jamian Risher: In August 2016, Murdaugh allegedly had a $90,000 check written from the 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 this expense was related to Risher’s case.
Manuel Santis-Cristiani: Between August and September 2016, Murdaugh allegedly defrauded his client, Santis-Christiani of Colleton County, who was being compensated $70,000 for his injures. Murdaugh is accused of convincing Santis-Cristiani to make a check out for that amount to the Forge account under the guise of structuring the settlement. He then deposited the money into a bank account he created under the name “Richard A Murdaugh Sole Prop DBA Forge” and allegedly walked away with the man’s $70,000.
Randy Drawdy: In November 2017, Murdaugh had Drawdy sign a settlement disbursement form that showed the firm was withholding $8,819.30 for medical bills and $750 for private investigator services. Murdaugh had a check made out to his Forge account for $9,569.30 from the law firm’s client trust account and used the money for his own personal purposes.
Jordan Jinks: In August 2018, Murdaugh allegedly convinced Jinks, a longtime friend of the family, that his 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 accounts. He is also 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.
Gloria Satterfield: Satterfield was the Murdaugh family’s nanny and housekeeper for more than two decades before she died following the 2018 “trip and fall” incident on the Murdaugh’s Moselle property — where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were murdered on June 7, 2021. Murdaugh is accused of orchestrating a scheme to steal $4.3 million from Satterfield’s family through her wrongful death settlement against him.
Blondell Gary: In April 2019, Murdaugh is accused of gaining the trust of the personal representative for the Gary estate in Hampton County and taking $112,500 of the estate’s money from his law firm’s client trust account. Murdaugh allegedly deposited this money in his Forge bank account and used it for himself.
Christopher Anderson: Between February and July 2020, Anderson came to 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 allegedly stole the entire $750,000 from Anderson and told him that the money was being held in an annuity account for structured settlements.
Sandra Taylor: Between November and December 2020, Murdaugh allegedly convinced a Colleton County client who was representing the Taylor estate 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.” Murdaugh actually recovered more than $180,000 in the settlement and allegedly stole more than $150,000 through his Forge account.
Thomas E. Moore: Between January and May 2021, Murdaugh is accused of convincing Moore, a South Carolina Highway Patrolman who was injured in the line of duty, to sign over his settlement proceeds to PMPED, falsely telling Moore that the money would not be available until the lawsuit was complete. Murdaugh is then accused of depositing the $125,000 in settlement proceeds into the Forge account. In addition, Murdaugh allegedly forged Moore’s signature on a disbursement form on which Moore supposedly acknowledged the disbursement, however Moore had never signed the sheet and was unaware of the transaction.
PMPED: Between March and July 2021, Murdaugh is accused of convincing a Bamberg County attorney from another law firm who was working a case with him to write him three checks totaling $792,000 for his share of the legal fees, instead of writing it to PMPED per protocol. Murdaugh allegedly told the attorney that he was going to structure his fees because of his civil liability on the Mallory Beach boat crash lawsuit. He allegedly lied to the attorney and said that PMPED was aware of this. Murdaugh didn’t structure the fees. He is accused of taking the money for himself and depositing it into his Forge account. PMPED staff caught on to the scheme and questioned the attorney from another firm and Murdaugh about the legal fees, according to the indictment. Murdaugh allegeldy told the attorney that he needed to return the $792,000 to the other attorney’s trust account for reimbursement to PMPED. Murdaugh then only wired $600,000 back to the other attorney and claimed that he couldn’t access the $192,000 “because of the way he had set it up,” the indictment stated.
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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