Criminal Justice

Ex-lawyer Murdaugh, in prison for murder, is charged with stealing from clients

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AP Alex Murdaugh March 2023

Disbarred South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh was sentenced in early March to life in prison after a conviction in a double-murder trial during his sentencing at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina. He was found guilty on all counts. Photo by Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post and Courier via the Associated Press.

A disbarred lawyer who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife and one of his sons has been indicted on federal charges for allegedly stealing money from clients and his housekeeper’s family.

Former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh, 54, is charged with wire and bank fraud, conspiracy to commit those crimes and money laundering, according to a May 24 Department of Justice press release.

Murdaugh was a personal injury lawyer in Hampton, South Carolina, with the law firm then known as Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick, or PMPED in shortened form. Among the accusations are that Murdaugh:

  • Redirected client money to enrich himself, partly by sending the money to his accounts and by depositing insurance proceeds intended for beneficiaries into his accounts.
  • Conspired with his banker, Russell Laffitte, whom he chose to serve as personal representative or conservator for personal injury clients. Settlement checks were made out to Lafitte’s bank, and Lafitte redirected the funds for Murdaugh’s benefit. Lafitte, who earned more than $350,000 in fees, is awaiting sentencing after his conviction on six federal charges in connection with his role in the scheme.
  • Murdaugh created a bank account in the name of “Forge,” which is similar to the name of a structured settlement company. Murdaugh allegedly deposited stolen personal injury settlements into the fake account.
  • After the death of Murdaugh’s housekeeper in a fall at his home, Murdaugh recommended that her estate hire a Beaufort, South Carolina, attorney to file a claim against him. Murdaugh’s insurance companies settled for $505,000 and $3.8 million. Murdaugh and the opposing lawyer allegedly conspired to defraud the housekeeper’s estate by disguising some of the settlement money as expenses and using the money for themselves. Murdaugh also told the opposing lawyer to write a $3.48 million check from the settlement to “Forge.” The housekeeper’s estate received nothing.

Murdaugh’s attorneys, Jim Griffin and Richard Harpootlian, gave this statement to Reuters and Law360: “Alex has been cooperating with the United States attorney’s office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities. We anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial.”

Hat tip to the Marshall Project.

See also: “Caretaker’s testimony hurts alibi of once-prominent lawyer Murdaugh, who’s charged with murdering wife and son” “Cellphone video places Murdaugh at murder scene, says prosecutor in once-prominent lawyer’s trial” “Law firm staffers were first to suspect once-prominent lawyer Murdaugh was stealing client money, partner testifies”

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