SC attorney to face charges in missing $4.3 million insurance money from dead housekeeper

By John Monk

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Alex Murdaugh will be charged criminally in the missing $4.3 million insurance proceeds owed to the estate of his late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.

Murdaugh was taken into custody Thursday morning by the State Law Enforcement Division and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at a rehabilitation facility in Orange County, Florida, his attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin told The State.

Murdaugh will head back to South Carolina, where he’ll face two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, SLED said.

“He surrendered himself to SLED, he didn’t fight extradition and he is coming back. He wants to face these charges,” Harpootlian told The State. “It’s a shame he didn’t get to finish his rehabilitation.”

A statement by SLED later Thursday morning said Murdaugh was taken into custody and taken to the Orange County Corrections center, “where he will be held until he receives an extradition hearing. Upon extradition being granted or waived, he will be brought back to South Carolina to receive a bond hearing.“

It was not immediately clear when that hearing would occur and when Murdaugh will be back in South Carolina.

No warrants were made public.

“Today is merely one more step in a long process for justice for the many victims in these investigations,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in a statement. “I want to commend the hard work and dedication that our agents have shown over the last four months. They will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of those who were victimized by Alex Murdaugh and others. As I have said previously, we are committed to following the facts wherever they may lead us and we will not stop until justice is served.”

Much of the evidence in the Satterfield case was recently brought to light in a civil suit filed in September by Satterfield’s two sons, who accused Murdaugh, another lawyer and a banker of participating in a scheme to divert the $4.3 million in insurance proceeds from the estate of Satterfield.

“I’m very proud of the justice system in our state, and I’m proud of SLED for concentrating on the crime at hand, which was the right thing to do,” said Eric Bland, a Columbia attorney who represents the Satterfield heirs.

Satterfield died of injuries received in a 2018 fall at the Murdaugh’s house. The $4.3 million payable to her estate came from insurance policies Murdaugh had on his house.

Thursday’s taking into custody of Murdaugh is the latest development in the ever-expanding saga surrounding suspended South Carolina lawyer Murdaugh, which started in June with the still-unsolved murders of Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, at their Colleton County country home.

The murders have evolved into a series of other alleged crimes, including insurance fraud and embezzlement, and they’ve cast a spotlight on South Carolina’s legal community and how lawyers handle large sums of money that come their way.

In early September, a top Lowcountry law firm, PMPED, issued a public statement accusing its longtime partner Murdaugh of embezzling money — which sources said may be as much as $10 million — from the firm and its clients. Confronted in early September with the accusation, Murdaugh resigned.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has suspended Murdaugh’s license in connection with his former law firm’s allegations of embezzlement.

The lawyer involved in the housekeeper insurance matter, Cory Fleming of Beaufort, has since apologized for being involved in a scheme he blamed on Murdaugh and is returning more than $1 million he and his firm received from Satterfield’s estate. The state Supreme Court suspended Fleming’s law license.

For months, Murdaugh has attracted national attention, with in-depth stories in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other national print and broadcast outlets.

On Thursday, NBC’s “Today” show host Craig Melvin interviewed Curtis Edward Smith and his lawyer, Jonny McCoy, for about eight minutes, peppering them with questions about Murdaugh’s botched suicide attempt over Labor Day weekend.

Murdaugh’s case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney General’s office.


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