In January 2020, disgraced Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh wired more than $110,000 from his checking account to “personally fund the purchase” of a funeral home, a hearse, a limo and three properties under foreclosure in Brunswick, Georgia, according to court records.
It is unclear whether this acquisition of Hall Jones and Brown Funeral Home and its accoutrement were part of Murdaugh’s growing list of alleged financial schemes.
But a funeral home is an interesting choice for a personal injury attorney — particularly one who has been sitting in jail since October 2021 and is facing 75 charges for stealing more than $9 million from clients.
One source with knowledge of the purchase speculated that Murdaugh might have been trying to drum up more wrongful death cases for himself and told FITSNews that an idea like that would be “ingenious on a criminal level.”
Further puzzling is Murdaugh’s connection with the funeral home’s owner …
Murdaugh first wired $147,000 from Palmetto State Bank to Southeastern Bank in Darien, Georgia, on behalf of John Martin of Martin’s Funeral Home in Estill, South Carolina.
According to the funeral home’s website, Martin’s also has a Brunswick location at the same address as the funeral home that Murdaugh purchased in 2020.
The wire request was signed off on by Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank who is currently under investigation for his apparent role in Murdaugh’s alleged schemes.
Also of interest: A note at the bottom says “OK per Blanca.”
Who is Blanca?
In recorded jailhouse calls obtained earlier this year by FITSNews under the Freedom of Information Act, Murdaugh referred to a “Blanca” in a Nov. 30, 2021, conversation with his surviving son, Buster.
Alex, who appeared to be wheeling and dealing from behind bars, continued to press a hesitant Buster to “call Blanca.”
At the time, sources told FITSNews that “Blanca” was the name of Maggie’s housekeeper at the Edisto house where she was staying by herself before she and her son were murdered in June 2021.
Since then, though, FITSNews has learned of a Palmetto State Bank employee named Blanca Carillo.
It is unclear what her connection is to Murdaugh beyond the bank and whether she is the “Blanca” referred to in the phone call.
In an email on Jan. 7, 2020, Carillo wrote, “I did talk to Russell and verify the amount $147,000 and debit the account (redacted) per Alex Murdaugh.”
Nevertheless, that money was sent back by the bank in Georgia and instructions were given to Martin:
“Per the request of Jerrie McWilliams, the payoff on the loan for Hall, Jones and Brown Funeral Home is $110,231.15 as of 1/13/2020. The per diem on the loan is $22.51.
The above payoff includes the properties mentioned below:
2005 G. St., Brunswick (Funeral Home)
3606 Franklin St., Brunswick
3808 Franklin St., Brunswick
1705 Tarpin Ave., Brunswick
2004 Cadillac Hearse
2006 Cadillac Limo”
A day later, according to court records, $110,253.76 was wired from Palmetto State Bank to the Georgia bank.
This wire transfer form was again signed by Laffitte.
It is unclear whether this money was a loan to Martin, but court records indicate that “a cursory review of Alex’s financial records does not indicate that John Martin has repaid Alex.”
According to court records, the estates of Abram F. Brown Sr. and Lillie V. Brown of Glynn County, Georgia, entered into an agreement on Jan. 7, 2020 with Martin.
Hall Jones and Brown Funeral Home was in default of its loan agreement with Southeastern Bank.
The bank advertised the property in The Brunswick News once a week for a month, announcing its intent to sell it to the “highest and best bidder for cash” on the first Tuesday in January 2020.
It was sold for $147,000 to Martin.
But Murdaugh paid the bulk of the purchase price.
On Jan. 27, the attorneys who were appointed by the court to comb through Murdaugh’s finances sent a subpoena to Martin asking for “any and all documents in your possession regarding the transaction referenced … including, but not limited to, any correspondence, text messages or emails.”
Martin did not respond to the subpoena nor did he respond to a follow-up letter sent on March 18, which gave him an additional 10 days to respond before a motion would be filed with the court.
On Tuesday afternoon, attorneys Amy L.B. Hill and Jordan M. Crapps of Gallivan, White and Boyd — the law firm of co-receiver John T. Lay — filed a motion to compel Martin to provide the records requested.
The co-receivers’ are tasked with accounting for every penny they can find belonging to Murdaugh as a long line of creditors continues to form.
Murdaugh is the defendant in at least nine lawsuits so far. In late March, Murdaugh admitted to stealing $4.3 million from the surviving family of Gloria Satterfield, who was the longtime nanny to his sons before she died after a “trip and fall” incident in 2018 at Murdaugh’s Moselle home.
In addition to the Satterfield case, Murdaugh is being sued by his former law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick; his brother, Randy Murdaugh; his former law partner Johnny Parker; the family of Mallory Beach, who was killed in a 2019 boat crash involving Murdaugh’s boat and his now-deceased son Paul; as well as four passengers who were injured in that same crash.
As the co-receivers continue to sort through Murdaugh’s assets, more questions are being raised about what he did with the millions he allegedly stole.
Questions are also being asked about the loans he appears to have given to associates.
In late March, FITSNews reported on a $5,000 loan Murdaugh made to Yemassee Police Chief Gregory Alexander, who is currently running for sheriff of Hampton County, just weeks after Murdaugh’s wife and son were murdered.
When reached by FITSNews founding editor Will Folks and asked about the loan, Alexander said it was a loan for his parents and that he was unsure whether it had been repaid.
The Puzzling Connection …
While this latest development in the Murdaugh Murders Saga has raised a lot of eyebrows, late-breaking information has come in since this story originally published Wednesday afternoon … and it is perplexing.
John Martin, the owner of Martin’s Funeral Home — the man who purchased the Brunswick funeral home location using $110,000 of Alex Murdaugh’s money — is also the father of one of Murdaugh’s alleged victims.
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 2021 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.
To view Tuesday afternoon’s court filings, click here, here, here and here.
We will continue to follow this story.