Alex Murdaugh indicted on 22 new financial fraud charges for stealing money from dead housekeeper’s family

Gloria Satterfield died in a ‘trip and fall’ at the Murdaugh family home in 2018

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 24 May 2023 17:20 BST
Prosecutors hail Alex Murdaugh guilty verdict

Convicted killer Alex Murdaugh has been indicted on a slew of new charges for stealing money from the family of his dead housekeeper.

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office announced on Wednesday that a federal grand jury had returned a 22-count indictment against the 54-year-old disgraced legal dynasty heir, charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.

Prosecutors allege that Murdaugh orchestrated a financial fraud scheme which included stealing almost $4.3m from the estate of Gloria Satterfield and its insurance carriers.

Satterfield was the Murdaugh’s longtime housekeeper who died in a mysterious “trip and fall” accident at the prominent family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate in South Carolina in 2018 – the same property where Murdaugh shot dead his wife Maggie and adult son Paul three years later.

Following her death, Murdaugh recommended that Satterfield’s sons hire his friend and fellow attorney to represent them to bring a wrongful death claim against him, so that they could collect from his homeowner’s insurance policies.

The insurance companies ultimately settled the estate’s claim for more than $4m – two payments of $505,000 and $3.8m.

Murdaugh and the personal injury attorney then allegedly stole the settlement money for themselves and the housekeeper’s sons didn’t get a dime.

This was all part of a decade-long multi-million-dollar fraud scheme where Murdaugh stole millions from his law firm and legal clients – a scheme he confessed to orchestrating when he took the stand at his murder trial.

The convicted killer was already awaiting trial on more than 100 financial crimes charges including charges of stealing from Satterfield’s family.

But, now he has been hit with a further 22 charges for what prosecutors describe as three separate schemes to steal money from personal injury clients he represented through his law firm.

In one scheme, from February 2018 – when Satterfield died – to at least October 2020, prosecutors allege that Murdaugh conspired with the personal injury attorney in Beaufort to defraud Satterfield’s estate and Murdaugh’s homeowner’s insurance carriers out of $4.3m.

This was part of a wider scheme running from September 2015 when he created the fake bank account named “Forge” to funnel stolen personal injury settlements to. 

Alex Murdaugh appears in court for sentencing (AP)

In the second scheme, running from at least September 2005 to September 2021, Murdaugh allegedly routed and redirected clients’ settlement funds into his own pocket including by directing his law firm colleagues to pay the funds directly into his personal account.

At Murdaugh’s murder trial, jurors heard testimony from his law firm coworkers about this scheme – and how they later learned that Murdaugh had kept the money for himself.

In the third scheme, Murdaugh and his banker Russell Laffitte allegedly conspired from July 2011 to October 2021 to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

Laffitte, who was CEO of Palmetto State Bank at the time, acted as Murdaugh’s personal banker and as a custodian or conservator for some of his law firm clients. Laffitte then conspired to defraud those clients, with the two men diverting the money to themselves.

Laffitte was convicted in November of financial fraud charges in connection to Murdaugh’s alleged white collar fraud schemes.

Murdaugh faces up to 30 years in prison on the highest charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the new indictment.

“Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers,” said US Attorney Adair Boroughs in a press release announcing the charges. 

“South Carolinians turn to lawyers when they are at their most vulnerable, and in our state, those who abuse the public’s trust and enrich themselves by fraud, theft, and self-dealing will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Even without the financial charges, Murdaugh will already spend the remainder of his life in prison after he was found guilty on 2 March of murdering Maggie and Paul on the family’s Moselle property back on 7 June 2021. Murdaugh, 54, was sentenced to life in prison the day after the verdict.

Satterfield, who worked for the family for more than 20 years, was found at the bottom of the steps leading into the family’s home.

She never resumed consciousness and died from her injuries three weeks later on 26 February.

At the time, Murdaugh claimed that she had tripped over the family’s dogs and hit her head, and her death was regarded as an accidental fall.

However, her death certificate cited her manner of death as “natural” and no autopsy was ever carried out.

Questions have been swirling around Satterfield’s death for the past few years as the string of deaths, stolen money and corruption surrounding Murdaugh came to light.

Gloria Satterfield died in a ‘trip and fall’ at the Murdaugh home in 2018 (Provided)

In September 2021, an investigation was reopened into her death and investigators said they planned to exhume her body.

Satterfield’s death isn’t the only mystery deaths tied to the South Carolina legal dynasty.

A homicide investigation has also been opened into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, who was found dead in the middle of a road in Hampton County.

The openly gay 19-year-old had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his death was officially ruled a hit-and-run. But Smith’s family have long doubted this version of events, with the Murdaugh name cropping up in several police tips and community rumours.

At the time of his murder, Paul was also awaiting trial for the boat crash death of Mallory Beach.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in