Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh faces new financial charges
By Maria Cartaya and Christina Maxouris, CNN
The South Carolina State Grand Jury issued new charges against disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh, roughly a month after he pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the killings of his wife and son.
Murdaugh was indicted on four counts of obtaining signature or property by false pretenses for a value of $10,000 or more; two counts of money laundering with a value of $20,000 – $100,000; one count of money laundering with a value of $100,000 or more; and two counts of computer crime with a value of more than $10,000, according to a Friday news release from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
CNN reached out to Murdaugh’s attorney, Richard Harpootlian, for comment. A press representative for Harpootlian told CNN in an email, “No comment right now.”
The latest indictments allege Murdaugh stole from his former law firm and brother.
According to one indictment, it was common practice for certain partners in the PMPED (Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, and Detrick) law firm to loan money to the firm at the start of each year to cover certain expenses until the firm had generated sufficient revenue and they could be paid back with interest, but Murdaugh did not usually make those loans.
The firm’s accounting office “erroneously wrote out a repayment loan check to Murdaugh for $121,358.63” that should have gone to Murdaugh’s brother, who had made a loan, according to the indictment. But Murdaugh went to the accounting office and “though false representations had the office cut another check for the same amount … (and) then deposited that replacement loan repayment check into his account and converted the funds to his personal use.”
Murdaugh conducted financial transactions “with property that he knew was the proceeds of, or was derived directly or indirectly from the proceeds of, unlawful activity,” another charge reads.
Another indictment alleges Murdaugh created a bank account “for the purpose of misappropriating funds belonging to others with the illusion that the money was being paid to (a) legitimate settlement planning company.”
He then made sure that a $91,867.50 check, which represented legal fees to the law firm in one case, was disbursed from the client trust account to the bank account he had created and controlled, according to the indictment. He then used that money “for his own personal use, for expenses including but not limited to credit card payments, transfers to family members, overdraft charges, and checks written to associates,” that indictment alleged.
A total of 90 charges for schemes to defraud
Murdaugh resigned from the law firm in September 2021 after “the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies,” the firm said in a statement. That same month, the state’s Supreme Court issued an order suspending his license to practice law in South Carolina.
In October, the law firm sued Murdaugh to recover funds it alleged he stole from clients for his own personal use, saying Murdaugh “developed a systematic scheme in which he diverted funds owed to the firm and to clients to a fictitious entity” for many years.
Murdaugh was already facing a slew of other charges for alleged financial crimes.
“Altogether, through 18 indictments containing 90 charges against Murdaugh, the State Grand Jury has indicted Murdaugh for schemes to defraud victims of $8,789,447.77,” the state attorney general said.
Murdaugh was also indicted in July on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the killings of his wife and son.
Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and their son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found shot to death on the family’s property in Islandton, about an hour north of Hilton Head Island, on June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh placed the 911 call, saying he had just returned home and discovered their bodies.
He pleaded not guilty and his attorneys said he wanted “everyone to know that he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul.”
Murdaugh wants the trial to begin quickly, his attorney previously said, because he believes his wife and son’s “killer or killers are still at large.”
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