Charleston, S.C. (CN) — Alex Murdaugh confessed in state court Friday to stealing millions from his former law clients and others who trusted him in a decadelong conspiracy that unraveled after the slayings of his wife and son.
Murdaugh pleaded guilty at a court hearing in Beaufort County to nearly two dozen offenses, including money laundering, breach of trust, forgery and criminal conspiracy. The 55-year-old disbarred attorney will serve 27 years in state prison under the plea deal.
Murdaugh admitted he stole settlement money from personal injury victims he represented at his family’s law firm in Hampton County. The thefts began in 2011 and continued until Murdaughs’ wife Maggie and youngest son Paul were gunned down in June 2021 at the family’s hunting estate in Colleton County.
The gruesome crimes sparked a sprawling criminal investigation that led to Murdaugh's indictment and eventual conviction for the murders. Murdaugh admitted on the witness stand he stole from his clients even as he denied killing his wife and son.
Among the financial victims were the sons of Murdaugh’s housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died in a fall at the family’s estate in 2018. Corey Fleming, Murdaugh’s friend and a fellow attorney, secured a $4.3 million settlement from Murdaugh’s insurance companies in the case, but the sons never saw a dime.
Murdaugh was expected to begin trial later this month on 13 charges tied to the Satterfield case. By pleading guilty, he resolved more than 100 state charges brought against him in the theft investigation. He pleaded guilty in September to federal charges related to the same crimes.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters told Judge Clifton Newman at Friday’s hearing that Murdaugh routinely betrayed the trust of people left vulnerable in the wake of personal tragedy. Authorities estimate the attorney stole about $9 million in a dizzying scheme involving a fake bank account, forged signatures and the help of a local bank executive.
Murdaugh wore an orange prison uniform and handcuffs at the hearing. He rolled his eyes and sometimes smirked as Waters recited the allegations.
Murdaugh told the judge he did not fully agree with the state’s narrative, but he was guilty of it all.
“I wrongfully took all that money and committed all those crimes,” he said, adding later: “I am glad to finally be given the opportunity to plead guilty and I am happy to be pleading guilty to these charges.”
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said a in a statement Friday the conviction was a win for the victims and justice.
"We hope the families he betrayed and stole from feel a little peace that he is going to serve time for those crimes," Wilson said. "It doesn’t matter your last name, your position, or your connections — no one is above the law in South Carolina.”
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28.
Murdaugh filed a motion in September seeking a new trial in the murder case.
A hearing on the motion has not been scheduled.Follow @SteveGarrisonPC
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