Two days after a judge first denied Alex Murdaugh bond last fall, the disgraced Hampton County attorney called his younger brother and son from Richland County Detention Center and warned them to move quickly.
“Hey, John,” Murdaugh said to John Marvin Murdaugh on Oct. 21, 2021. “In court the other day, they made a big deal about things … they’re going to be moving to try to prevent us from selling stuff. We need to get as much as we can completed … I don’t know if it’s going to be a day or a week or two weeks.”
Murdaugh told John Marvin and Buster to sell off his assets before Allendale attorney Mark Tinsley could get at them, according to one of the hundred or so recorded phone calls that Murdaugh’s “bulldog” attorneys had tried to prevent FITSNews and Murdaugh Murders Podcast from getting.
In February, FITSNews and Murdaugh Murders Podcast exclusively published the first round of calls, which directly contradicted several assertions being made publicly by Murdaugh’s attorneys Jim Griffin and state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, who promptly filed a complaint in federal court to block further release of the recordings.
FITSNews and the podcast led the fight to ensure these public documents were released.
The latest round of calls — which have since been requested by multiple media companies — were released last week after a federal judge denied Murdaugh’s request to stop the public from hearing them.
As FITSNews founding editor Will Folks predicted in March, the calls they tried to block have, in fact, turned out to be rather incriminating.
For instance, the family was clearly working to keep money away from Alex Murdaugh’s growing line of creditors. The money raised from the sale of Alex Murdaugh’s assets was being funneled to a debt allegedly owed to Palmetto State Bank by Alex and their father, Randolph Murdaugh III.
In paying off this unsecured line of credit, the family was — in essence — preserving their own wealth and keeping creditors away from their sizable trusts. Their sale of Alex’s assets to friends and family members also seems similarly designed to shuffle money from one column to another.
At the time of the Oct. 21, 2021, call, Tinsley — who represents the family of Mallory Beach in a 2019 wrongful death case in which both Murdaugh and his son Buster are co-defendants — was a day away from filing a motion to stop the Murdaugh family from liquidating Alex’s and Buster’s assets.
That motion — which the judge would rule in favor of at the beginning of November — also asked the court to place Alex’s finances under a receivership.
In his arguments on Oct. 29, 2021, Tinsley told the court that Alex Murdaugh is not your “average criminal” and that the receivership “is a process to protect everyone, including the people who may not even know their money is missing yet.”
Tinsley’s words would prove to be true.
Alex Murdaugh now faces 83 charges, most of them stemming from the alleged theft of $8.4 million from clients.
In October, however, much less was publicly known about his alleged crimes.
“They can’t serve you,” Murdaugh told Buster on Oct. 23, 2021. “I guess, they can serve you individually to keep you from doing anything as power of attorney. But that don’t keep John Marvin from selling this shit. You know? I mean, the shit that ain’t got titles especially.”
The Beach case had loomed large for Alex Murdaugh in the lead-up to the June 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie, and son Paul. For months, Alex had ignored a subpoena requesting detailed information about his finances.
As evidence emerged over the summer of 2021 that Alex Murdaugh was cashing out his assets, Tinsley and attorney Eric Bland — who represents the family of the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper, from whom Alex has admitted to stealing $4.3 million — accused Alex Murdaugh of attempting to bankrupt himself so there’d be nothing left for a growing list of Murdaugh’s victims.
Bland joined Tinsley in his call for an injunction and receivership.
‘It Ain’t Like We’re Squirreling It Away …’
During one of his first phone calls from jail, Alex told John Marvin to talk to Griffin about how much time they had.
“You might speak to Jim, if you get a chance,” Alex said, “just to find out what kind of timeframe he thinks before they get any kind of order preventing us from doing anything.”
In the meantime, John Marvin offered to purchase a dump truck and excavator from his brother.
“That’ll be the easiest way to do a sale,” John Marvin said about the plan, which would keep those assets in the family.
A call between Alex and Buster in November would demonstrate Alex’s feelings about keeping assets in the family. During that call, he told Buster that having John Marvin serve as “personal representative” to Maggie’s estate would be no different from Buster serving as the PR.
“They just seem to think that with everything going on and the scrutiny and everything, it’d be a better idea [for me] not to be [personal representative],” Buster told Alex.
“Who’s going to be it?” Alex asked.
“John,” Buster said.
“I mean, that’s basically the same thing, isn’t it?” Alex said.
“Basically,” Buster answered.
In the Oct. 21 call, Alex told John Marvin not to buy the machinery “just to help me.”
John Marvin — who owns a heavy equipment rental and sales center — indicated he wasn’t able to find buyers for either piece of equipment and thought he might as well buy them off his brother.
“Like I said, don’t do that,” Alex said. “I mean, if you want them, shit I’ll give them to you.”
“No, no. Nope. Not going to do that,” John Marvin said. “OK. I know what to do.”
“I’m serious. If you need them, John Marvin,” Alex said.
“Bo, I don’t need them.”
In dozens of calls during his stay at the jail, Alex Murdaugh would remind family members that not only were their calls being recorded, they were being monitored.
At points during the Oct. 21 call, both Alex and John Marvin were careful to signal that no shenanigans were afoot with this arrangement.
“I’m just doing everything by the book,” John Marvin told Alex in the call.
“It ain’t like we’re squirreling it away,” Alex said. “It’s going to pay bank stuff.”
“Well, it goes to the unsecured note,” John Marvin said, referencing a more than $600,000 Palmetto State Bank line of credit Alex took out with their father. “Everything else has something securing it, so it makes sense. Unsecured items would go to an unsecured note.”
John Marvin handed over the phone to Buster, and Alex updated him on the impending motion and referred to a “Mark,” which is believed to be Mark Ball, his former partner at Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick, who — according to the calls — helped facilitate the sale of a boat for Alex.
“I just told John we need to, they’re going to move to try to stop us from selling stuff,” Alex said. “We need to get — if Mark and them are going to do that, they need to do it and we need to get that on that note ASAP, and get the boat money on that note ASAP. You know, I don’t know if this is going to be a day or a week or two weeks, but they’re going to move to stop us from selling assets.”
“That’s messed up,” Buster said.
“Well, that’s the civil side. That dude’s just trying to put on a show, grandstand and everything,” Alex said of Tinsley, whom he later calls “volatile” during a call with Buster in which they discuss the receivership hearing.
Palmetto State Bank
Since this phone call was made last fall, Palmetto State Bank has emerged as a problematic player in Alex Murdaugh’s alleged schemes.
One of the bank’s vice presidents, Chad Westendorf, served as a highly paid “personal representative” in the Gloria Satterfield settlement, which investigators believe helped Alex Murdaugh and Beaufort attorney Cory Fleming abscond with the money.
Former bank CEO Russell Laffitte is currently on house arrest for allegedly conspiring with Alex Murdaugh to steal from clients for years.
Under Laffitte’s leadership, the bank allowed Alex Murdaugh to take out millions of dollars in loans despite his apparent inability to keep a positive balance in his checking accounts. According to court filings, Alex routinely allowed his accounts to go into overdraft, sometimes to the tune of six figures, and was sporadic at best about paying back the money.
DON’T MISS A STORY …
The bank appears to have consistently accommodated a customer who otherwise should have raised alerts in this highly regulated industry.
In August 2021, the bank approved another $750,000 loan to Alex.
Because of this and other banking irregularities, Tinsley and the receivers have questioned the legitimacy of Alex Murdaugh’s Palmetto State Bank loans.
On Monday, reporter Drew Tripp of ABC15 News reported that co-receivers John T. Lay and Peter McCoy have now asked a Colleton County Probate Court judge to invalidate the intermarriage sale of the Murdaughs’ Moselle property from Alex to Maggie for $5.
Palmetto State Bank purportedly holds a $2 million mortgage on the property that Alex Murdaugh was able to secure despite not actually owning the property.
Just over a week after Alex’s phone call, Alex’s older brother Randy Murdaugh and former law partner Johnny Parker filed separate claims in court seeking repayment of hundreds of thousands from Alex. Immediately, Alex offered a confession of judgment in Randy’s case. The move was largely seen as another avenue for the Murdaughs to preserve their assets by shuffling them around and prioritizing the bank, as well as friends and family as creditors.
‘This Eric Bland Guy Seems Like A Real Charm’
In a call on Oct. 23, Buster expressed concern over the upcoming receivership hearing.
“I’m doing good,” he told his father. “Just, you know, the new developments with the motions and everything trying to get us to quit selling stuff. I don’t know really what that’s going to … what that has in store.”
“I told y’all this was coming,” Alex said. “I called John Marvin the other day to tell him he needed to do it as quickly as possible because they were going to be doing it any day.”
“This Eric Bland guy seems like a real charm,” Buster said.
“Well, this is his five minutes in the sun, you know?,” Alex said.
In the call, Alex told Buster that he isn’t sure there’s anything that can be done but that he asked John Marvin to get in touch with Ball to “get those funds and put it on that thing.”
“Well, it’s done now,” Buster said about the motion. “So no reason to fret about it.”
“No. He’s filed a motion. He doesn’t have an order yet.”
“No, no,” Buster said. “I understand that it’s not ruled upon.”
“I would think they got to serve me to do it,” Alex said.
“Well, they should have to serve one of us if they’re going to stop me from doing something,” Buster said.
“They can only serve you if you accept service,” Alex said.
The plan to sell off assets quickly appears to have involved Alex’s former law partner Mark Ball in some way — though, according to the calls, Ball had not been returning the family’s calls at the end of October.
“John Marvin is too scared to do anything that’s teetering,” Buster told Alex.
“I said, John Marvin is too afraid to do anything that’s teetering, you know what I mean?”
FITSNews will continue to report on the Alex Murdaugh Jail House Calls through the week.
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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