In the wake of the sentencing of disgraced former banker and convicted fraudster Russell Laffitte to seven years in federal prison on August 1, 2023 – another key player in the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga is preparing to face the music. Beaufort, South Carolina attorney Cory Fleming – who reached a deal with federal prosecutors to plead guilty one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud – is scheduled to be sentenced on August 15, 2023 in front of U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel.
Fleming is facing multiple federal charges in connection with his role in a scam that ripped off convicted killer Alex Murdaugh’s insurers to the tune of nearly $4 million.
In addition to his guilty plea, Fleming also agreed to be “fully truthful and forthright with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies by providing full, complete and truthful information about all criminal activities” of which he has knowledge. He further agreed to “testify fully and truthfully before any grand juries and at any trials or other proceedings if called upon to do so.”
Failure to do so would result in the government nullifying his plea agreement.
Fleming could be sentenced to up to five years in a federal prison and face a fine of $250,000 – as well as “full restitution to each and every identifiable victim.”
When asked about expectations relating to Fleming’s federal sentencing, his attorney Deborah Barbier indicated she expected her client to serve some time.
“It won’t be probation,” Barbier told reporters in Columbia, S.C. following a hearing with prosecutors on the state charges Fleming is facing (more on those in a moment).
Fleming and Murdaugh have been charged at both the state and federal level in connection with fleecings that took place following the death of Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
Satterfield, 57, passed away at Trident Medical Center in North Charleston, S.C. on February 26, 2018 – more than three weeks after allegedly tripping and falling off the front porch of the Murdaugh family’s now-infamous hunting property, known locally as Moselle.
Paul Murdaugh and his mother, Maggie Murdaugh, were both present at Moselle when Satterfield was allegedly tripped by the family’s dogs – causing her to fall backward onto the brick stairs in front of the main house shortly after 9:15 a.m. EST on the morning of Friday, February 2, 2018.
A little more than three years later, both Paul and Maggie were savagely murdered at the dog kennels on the Moselle property. Alex Murdaugh was convicted of their murders five months ago and sentenced to life in prison for committing those crimes. He is currently facing nearly 100 other criminal charges – including a dozen financial charges tied to Satterfield’s death.
Murdaugh originally claimed his family’s dogs caused Satterfield to trip and fall. He also claimed she was at the residence that morning not to work, but rather to pick up a check from another family member. His unsubstantiated claim about the dogs – and his oddly specific insistence that Satterfield came to the residence to pick up a check as opposed to arriving for work – were key components of fraudulent insurance payouts and other claims related to this case.
On May 1, 2023, Murdaugh belatedly acknowledged “no dogs were involved in the fall of Gloria Satterfield on February 2, 2018.”
“(Murdaugh) invented Ms. Satterfield’s purported statement that dogs caused her fall to force his insurers to make a settlement payment, and he stated that she was not on the property to perform work,” his attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin stated.
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According to federal prosecutors, Murdaugh and Fleming “knowingly and intentionally combined, conspired, confederated, agreed and had a tacit understanding with others, both known and unknown, and engaged in a scheme, plan, and artifice to defraud the estate of (Satterfield).”
Fleming is also facing nineteen state charges related to the Satterfield scheme. At the time the federal charges were filed, sources familiar with the situation told FITSNews the two chief prosecutors and their lieutenants had a heated exchange – with state prosecutors accusing the feds of “copying” their work. The tensions in this prosecutorial turf war were evidenced by a blunt statement released by state prosecutors after the federal charges were filed.
“The financial allegations in this case involve alleged abuse of state lawyer licenses dealing with state court legal actions before state court judges, with alleged misappropriation of state court approved settlements,” the statement noted. “The South Carolina attorney general’s office and the State Law Enforcement Division have occupied a primary and central role in this investigation from inception, and no action by any other entity will have any effect on our goals to ensure significant accountability in state court for any criminal conduct.”
Unbeknownst to most of the Palmetto State’s press corps, a status conference relating to Fleming’s state case was held on August 7, 2023 in Richland County in front of circuit court judge Clifton Newman. Fleming is set to stand trial on September 11, 2023, while Murdaugh is reportedly set to stand trial the following month.
According to Barbier, no plea offer has been made by the state – although she has indicated her client is willing to take accountability for his actions.
“He’s (Fleming) just trying to do the right thing,” Barbier told reporters.
During the status hearing, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters – who led the double homicide case against Murdaugh – discussed the upcoming trial of 40-year-old Jerry Rivers of Walterboro, S.C. A man with multiple connections to the “Cowboys” gang, Rivers is scheduled to stand trial in Colleton County on August 28, 2023 on one count of obstruction of justice after allegedly committing “an act which prevents, obstructs, impedes, or hinders the administration of justice.”
Rivers was accused of taking “an item of evidentiary value that had been seized pursuant to (a) search warrant” during a raid on August 10, 2022 – and doing so “without permission or acknowledgement from law enforcement,” according to the indictment.
The item? A “cellular phone belonging to another individual who had been arrested.”
Waters has previously stated the cell phone in question belonged to Spencer Roberts – another Murdaugh defendant – and was plugged into an outlet inside a gambling den near Walterboro. This gambling den was one of several Walterboro establishments raided last summer as authorities attempted to follow Murdaugh’s missing millions. At some point around the time of the raid – Rivers left the gambling den with Roberts’ phone on his person. Instructed to return the phone to authorities, Rivers instead got rid of it – and gave investigators a different device.
During the status hearing, Waters indicated prosecutors were expecting a plea agreement relating to Rivers’ case.
“We have an agreement in principle,” Waters told Newman.
Waters declined to discuss the particulars of the envisioned plea – or how it might relate to Rivers’ cooperation with prosecutors as they pursue other defendants mixed up in this maze of criminality.
According to Waters, there will be “more meat on the bone” regarding Rivers’ plea at future hearings.
Waters is leading the state’s case for the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson. Federal prosecutors Emily Limehouse, Winston Holliday Jr. and Kathleen Stoughton – the same team which successfully prosecuted convicted fraudster Russell Laffitte, another Murdaugh accomplice, last fall – are handling the federal cases. Laffitte was found guilty on November 22, 2022 of bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and misapplying bank funds related to his role in Murdaugh’s financial scams and sentenced to seven years in federal prison on August 1, 2023.
THE PLEA AGREEMENT ...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...
Jenn Wood is FITSNews' incomparable research director. She's also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she's married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at email@example.com.
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