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State police have charged Alex Murdaugh with two felonies related to money lost from the life insurance settlement of his late former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
In a news release Thursday morning, the State Division of Law Enforcement says Murdaugh was taken into custody by state police in Florida after leaving a drug rehab center he attended.wikipedia
SLED has indicted Murdaugh on two counts of obtaining property under false pretenses. He is now awaiting extradition to South Carolina for a bail hearing.
“I want to commend the hard work and dedication our agents have shown over the past four months,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said Thursday morning. “They will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of those who were victims of Alex Murdaugh and others. As I said before, we are committed to following the facts wherever they take us and we will not stop until justice is served. ”
Murdaugh has been in drug rehab since Sept. 6 after SLED says he orchestrated a botched assisted suicide plot that saw him hospitalized with a highly contested superficial gunshot wound to the head. Murdaugh also faces three criminal charges for that incident.
Several days after that unrelated incident, attorneys for Gloria Satterfield’s estate filed a lawsuit against Murdaugh in Hampton County court alleging that her heirs had not received the life insurance settlement money they were later owed. of Satterfield’s death. SLED announced that it was opening a criminal investigation into the case that same day.
Satterfield died in 2018 after an alleged trip and fall accident at Murdaugh’s home. A lawyer for the Satterfield estate says Murdaugh soon after hatched a plan to steal millions of dollars from the life insurance deal intended for Satterfield’s surviving sons, Tony Satterfield and Brian Harriott.
Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter, the attorneys representing the Satterfield family, issued a lengthy statement Thursday in response to Murdaugh’s arrest. The statement reads in part:
Bland and Richter laid out the details of Murdaugh’s alleged money-theft plot in the lawsuit filed last month in Hampton County court.
Murdaugh reportedly persuaded Satterfield’s children to sue him for life insurance money for their mother, assuring them that her downfall was his fault and that he would accept responsibility so that they would be well paid in compensation for the death. from his mother.
Bland alleges that Murdaugh recruited his friend and fellow attorney, Cory Fleming, to be the attorney for the Satterfield family in the lawsuit against him and his insurance company. Murdaugh did not reveal the facts to the Satterfields that Fleming was a close friend, his college roommate and the godfather of one of his children, Bland says.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that Fleming later insisted that the vice president of a local bank, Chad Westendorf, act as Satterfield’s personal representative during the legal proceedings, and told the sons that “business problems” would arise as part of the case that they were beyond your experience and knowledge.
The sons agreed and left the case in the hands of Fleming and Westendorf. But three years later, the Satterfield children hadn’t seen a penny of what was later found to be $ 4.3 million in total settlement payments; $ 2.7 million was supposed to go to Satterfield, the rest to attorneys’ fees and court costs.
The Satterfield family did not even know that any agreement had been reached or approved, according to Bland. Fleming allegedly never informed Satterfield’s children of the events in his case.
Bland also accuses Fleming and Murdaugh of lying about the facts of the case in order for a judge to approve the settlements, a requirement in South Carolina before money can be disbursed.
So what happened to the money? Bland claims that court records show that Westendorf was presented to the court as the person who would be paid the money to arrange his custody for the Satterfield family.
However, deep down, Murdaugh created a fraudulent bank account to make it look like the money would be sent to a structured settlement company known as Forge Consulting.
But instead of that money going to Westendorf or even Forge Consulting, Bland alleges that Murdaugh had Fleming write a check for Satterfield’s $ 2.7 million cut payable to the fake bank account Murdaugh had opened.
Forge Consulting has since issued a statement saying it had no knowledge of or involvement in the Murdaugh and Fleming plan. On October 12, Bland approved to dismiss Westendorf as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Fleming, meanwhile, has seen his attorney’s license suspended by the South Carolina Supreme Court, as has Murdaugh before him.
Fleming also appears to have been fired from his former law firm Moss Kuhn & Fleming, PA in Beaufort. The firm has rebranded itself Moss & Kuhn, and Fleming is no longer mentioned on the practice’s website.
Fleming and his firm agreed in early October to return all Satterfield legal fees and expenses that Fleming and the practice received from the $ 4.3 million settlements.
As of Thursday afternoon, no criminal charges have been filed against Fleming. Meanwhile, Alex Murdaugh now faces five criminal charges in total and is the subject of five other ongoing criminal investigations in addition to the Satterfield case.
Ongoing legal issues
Prior to Thursday’s charges, SLED indicted Murdaugh on Sept. 16 with insurance fraud, criminal conspiracy and filing a false police report on the aforementioned assisted suicide attempt, in which Murdaugh claimed he was shot in the head. along a Hampton County country road.
In that incident in early September, Murdaugh’s lawyers and SLED investigators say Murdaugh conspired with his friend and former client Curtis “Eddie” Smith to have him killed.