Despite Alex Murdaugh’s March 2023 conviction for murdering his wife and son, questions remain about the myriad criminal charges he is facing in both state and federal court. The most frequently asked question by those closely following this case is as follows: Where did the money go?
As of today, through twenty indictments containing 101 charges against Murdaugh, the South Carolina statewide grand jury has indicted him for schemes to defraud victims of $8.8 million as well as just under $620,000 allegedly stolen from the state of South Carolina. On May 23, 2023, a federal grand jury returned a 22-count indictment for conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering tied these fleecings.
All that money … and yet no one seems to have a clue where it went.
Except obviously not in the account of the receivers appointed by the court to inventory Murdaugh’s holdings so that victims could be compensated for his bad behavior.
Rumors regarding the ultimate disposition of Murdaugh’s assets have dominated discussion in the small South Carolina community of Hampton – from cash being stuffed into PVC pipes and buried around the family’s former Colleton County hunting property (known locally as Moselle) to gold bars being buried in the yard of an accomplice. Others suspect offshore accounts, cryptocurrency or a sophisticated laundering operation.
Murdaugh obviously lived well beyond his means – and the theory behind the graphic double homicide that made him infamous is that it eventually caught up with him. According to prosecutors, Murdaugh put himself behind the eight ball after making some bad real estate investments fifteen years ago. This put him in a hole he never got out of – forcing him to maintain en ever-escalating “velocity of cash” as his purportedly lavish lifestyle careened past the point of sustainability.
The day of reckoning finally arrived for Alex Murdaugh on June 7, 2021 – hours after the chief financial officer at his law firm confronted him about his latest theft. That evening, so the theory goes, Murdaugh bought himself more time by savagely killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and his younger son – 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh – at Moselle.
Months later, just before the Labor Day holiday, everything was unraveling again … and again, Murdaugh’s solution involved gun violence (although this time the gun was pointed at him).
How did things escalate so far, so fast?
Murdaugh was making – and stealing – millions of dollars. Each year. And that was just the money linked to legitimate income – and illegitimate thefts – we know about. But where was the money going? How did no one close to him have a clue what was happening?
As convicted fraudster Russell Laffitte faced sentencing by U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel earlier this month, FITSNews was busy going through the exhibits presented during his trial in November of 2022. Included in these exhibits? All of the activity in Murdaugh’s three Palmetto State Bank accounts from 2010 through 2021. All of it.
After spending months in pivot tables examining the activity, a couple of things were clear — Alex Murdaugh was spending as much as he was making. Given the breadth of the information we are weeding through, this will be an ongoing series as we break down where Murdaugh’s money was coming from and – more importantly – where it was going.
AN OVERVIEW …
According to the data from Murdaugh’s Palmetto State Bank accounts, the inflow of money to him at this bank totaled $29.134 million. But despite the enormity of that sum, the outflows actually exceeded that. Over an 11-year period, $29.21 million came out of the same accounts.
Digging within the numbers, 2012 and 2013 appeared to have been pivotal years in terms of both his income and spending.
In total, $6,818,146.62 was deposited by PMPED into Murdaugh’s PSB accounts between 2010 and 2021. In 2012, Murdaugh had $3,448,206.37 come into his accounts. Of this $3,100,495.32 was from PMPED’s payroll including a massive deposit of $3,029,319.02 on December 31, 2012.
Also notable in 2012, $150,000 was deposited into Murdaugh’s account from Hannah Plyler’s account – on which Laffitte served as conservator. He received a $90,510.00 tax refund from the U.S. Department of Treasury and $3,514.60 from the State of South Carolina. Additionally, Murdaugh received $16,931.65 in loan advances from Palmetto State Bank.
In 2013, the amount of money going into Murdaugh’s accounts dropped to $2,127,079.16, but his outflows far exceeded that – totaling $4,120,865.67. All told, he spent nearly double what he earned in 2013. Murdaugh earned a mere $68,715.68 from PMPED in 2013. The bulk of the money going into his accounts came from deposits and account transfers which totaled $1,631,709.21. Of these deposits and transfers, $360,000 came from the conservatorship account of Hannah Plyler.
Here is the income from PMPED to Murdaugh …
Where was Murdaugh’s money going? How could he spend over $29 million in eleven years? How was it even remotely possible he was spending $50,000 a week on his alleged drug habit?
FOLLOW THE $$$: THE PHARMACIES
Between 2013 and 2017, Murdaugh paid $25,852.88 to various pharmacies including $18,360.14 to Vincent’s Drugs in Hampton and $7,825.20 to Carolina Pharmacy. It is possible these charges were related to valid prescriptions for members of his family, however in 2018 these payments ceased.
What changed? That same year, South Carolina imposed a prescription limit policy as a measure to combat the opioid epidemic. The policy aimed to restrict the number of opioid prescriptions that can be given to patients.
Was this a mere coincidence?
FOLLOW THE $$$: “COUSIN EDDIE”
Curtis “Eddie” Smith was Murdaugh’s alleged drug dealer/ check casher – and the man who allegedly shot Murdaugh in the head during a bizarre roadside shooting incident nearly two years ago. As our readers are well aware, much of the money flowing from Murdaugh to Smith came from his Bank of America accounts.
In reviewing these transactions, Smith also received $868,975.21 from his Palmetto State Bank accounts with the first known check to Smith being written on April 11, 2011 for $1,800.00. As with the Bank of America transactions, the checks from Murdaugh’s Palmetto State Bank accounts were written to different variations of Eddie’s name including CE Smith, Curtis Smith, Eddie Smith and Curtis Eddie Smith — ostensibly to avoid the bank completing a currency transaction report.
Also worth noting? Murdaugh represented Smith in a personal injury lawsuit against American Forestry Management – a case which was filed in Colleton County on September 20, 2010. This case settled almost exactly two years later – on September 28, 2012.
The timing aligns with reports from multiple sources as to when the paths of Murdaugh and Smith first crossed.
(Click to view)
FOLLOW THE $$$: KENNY HUGHES
During a phone interview conducted by SLED agent Ryan Kelly on September 13, 2021 following the roadside shooting, Murdaugh claimed he gave a man named Kenny Hughes money for drugs. Murdaugh stated Hughes was “a guy he called up and asked him if he knew anybody that he could buy pills from.”
Turns out the payments to Hughes weren’t exactly a one-time occurrence. Between 2010 and 2021, Murdaugh paid Hughes $911,211.75.
Did all of that money go toward drugs?
(Click to view)
FOLLOW THE $$$: THE HOUSEKEEPERS
Longtime Murdaugh family housekeeper Barbara Mixon was paid $278,159.33 during the 11-year period reviewed. Whether or not all of these payments were for domestic services is unknown. During his September 13, 2021 interview with SLED agent Kelly, Murdaugh claimed he would “on occasion” pay Mixon for drugs.
By contrast, Gloria Satterfield – the family housekeeper and nanny for the prominent Murdaugh family for nearly a quarter century – was only paid $2,370 out of Murdaugh’s Palmetto State Bank accounts during the same timeframe.
Gloria’s son, Tony Satterfield, was also paid from Murdaugh’s accounts. He received $12,150 between 2012 and 2015.
What was this money for? Stay tuned …
FOLLOW THE $$$: BUTCH BOWERS
As this news outlet previously reported, Murdaugh enlisted the help of Columbia, S.C. attorney Butch Bowers to help his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, seek admittance to the University School of Law following a plagiarism scandal. Bowers, who hails from Estill, S.C., is a “political operative,” as Alex Murdaugh noted in a November phone call with his brother, John Marvin Murdaugh.
According to his phone calls from jail, Alex paid Bowers $60,000 for this task – half upfront and half when he succeeded in his mission.
As of at least December 1, 2021, he had received his payment in full, according to the calls. According to his account records, this payment was made on May 25, 2021 – just over two weeks before the murder of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh on June 7, 2021.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS …
Like Alex Murdaugh himself, the financial records surrounding him are incredibly complicated. In the coming weeks, FITSNews will continue endeavoring to make sense of Murdaugh’s financial transactions from his Palmetto State Bank accounts – and any other accounts we can get our hands on.
In addition to looking at where the money came from and where it went, we plan to dive into the timing of these transactions – and how they aligned with the alleged web of criminality in which he was entangled.
The indictments filed to date provide critical clues into how Murdaugh was allegedly stealing from those who trusted him. Testimony during both Murdaugh’s murder trial and Russell Laffitte’s federal trial also provided a wealth of information – including key confessions from Murdaugh himself.
Those who specialize in financial crimes say the answers lie in the data. Hence the expression “follow the money.” That is exactly what FITSNews intends to continue doing in this new series.
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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