COLUMBIA, S.C. – A grand jury in South Carolina has indicted former attorney Alex Murdaugh on 27 new charges, alleging he swindled clients out of millions of dollars, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced Friday.
The charges include 21 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, comprising schemes which aimed to defraud his victims of more than $2.6 million, according to the indictments. Murdaugh, 53, also faces six counts of computer crimes.
In the four indictments, handed down Thursday, officials said the 53-year-old former attorney negotiated settlement deals for clients for years without telling them about the funds. He then pocketed the cash, gave it to family members or used it to pay down his debts, according to court records.
In 2011 and 2012, prosecutors alleged that Murdaugh used more than $350,000 in settlement money meant for Natarsha Thomas, a Hampton County woman who had been in a vehicle crash. In a separate indictment, Murdaugh was accused of using $1.3 million in settlement money for Arthur Badger, whose wife died in a separate crash, to pay down a Bank of America credit card and his personal debts, among other things.
In 2011, an indictment alleges that Murdaugh used a $310,000 settlement meant for a Hampton County family that lost a loved one, Hakeem Pinckney, in a crash to pay down a personal business loan and for his own personal use. Years later, in 2017, he convinced the family to retain a lawyer, described in the indictment as a “close friend,” and got the attorney to make out an $89,000 settlement check to a company called “Forge.”
Officials noted that Forge Consulting LLC is a “legitimate company often used by South Carolina lawyers to facilitate structured settlements.” However, Murdaugh deposited the funds into an account created under the name “Richard A Murdaugh Sole Prop DBA Forge” which had been created “for the purpose of misappropriating funds belonging to others with the illusion that the money was being paid to the legitimate company Forge Consulting LLC,” according to the indictment.
Murdaugh is accused of using the same scheme to hide the fact that he had swindled Allendale County man Deon Martin out of about $383,000, according to a separate indictment filed Thursday. He was also previously accused of using Forge to hide $3 million, which he pocketed from a death settlement meant for the family of his housekeeper.
In all, Murdaugh has been accused of defrauding people out of more than $8.8 million, according to prosecutors.
Murdaugh remains jailed at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Columbia on an ever-growing list of breach of trust, forgery, money laundering and computer crime charges. He has blamed his problems on years of drug addiction, according to The Associated Press.
Murdaugh’s professional career began to unravel after his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, were killed in a shooting at the family’s home in June. No arrests have been made in the shooting, and Alex Murdaugh has denied any involvement in the shooting.
Alex Murdaugh is the fourth generation of a prominent legal family in tiny Hampton County. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all elected prosecutors and his family helped run the biggest law firm in the county for a century.
The Supreme Court of South Carolina suspended Murdaugh’s license to practice law in September.
The 53-year-old also faces charges related to an alleged scheme that he plotted his own murder to allow his surviving son to collect a $10 million life insurance policy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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