COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – A disbarred South Carolina attorney accused of killing his wife and son has been charged with another round of financial crimes.
This time, prosecutors said Alex Murdaugh stole nearly $420,000 from the law firm founded by his prominent legal family a century ago.
Murdaugh, 54, faces nine additional charges — four counts of obtaining property under false pretenses, three counts of money laundering and two counts of computer crimes — in indictments handed up by a state grand jury Tuesday and released Friday.
Murdaugh is in jail likely to be tried in January on murder charges in the June 2021 shooting deaths of his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son Paul. Investigators said they were killed with different weapons outside one of the family’s homes in Colleton County.
In all, Murdaugh faces about 90 charges. Most of them are financial crimes with prosecutors saying he stole at least $8.5 million from settlements he secured for a dozen poorer clients in wrongful death or injury cases.
But authorities said he also laundered money through a drug ring and by writing 437 checks worth $2.4 million to associates and others to avoid bank reporting requirements. Murdaugh tried to have a man kill him so his surviving son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy, investigators said.
If convicted of the murder charges, Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without parole. The crime also carries the death penalty, but prosecutors have not indicated whether they will seek it. The dozens of other charges combined carry up to hundreds of years behind bars.
In the latest round of indictments, prosecutors said Murdaugh took money from the PMPED law firm founded by his family more than 100 years ago and became a legal juggernaut, earning millions of dollars in verdicts in little Hampton County.
Some lawyers would loan money to the firm at the beginning of a year to pay expenses and then get paid back once regular income came in. Murdaugh didn’t participate, but the company accidentally wrote him a $121,000 loan repayment check that was supposed to go to his brother, according to an indictment.
Murdaugh pointed out the mistake, said the check was supposed to go to him, and another one was issued. He then cashed both checks, prosecutors said.
Murdaugh also took about $175,000 in settlements that were supposed to go to the law firm, according to a second indictment.
Investigators said the money laundering and computer crime charges arose because Murdaugh hid the money from banking regulations through smaller online transfers and checks written to himself and others.
Through his lawyers, Murdaugh has adamantly denied killing his wife and son. His lawyers have said he also plans to correct any financial mistakes he can.
Along with the family’s large civil law firm, Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were elected prosecutors in Hampton County and four surrounding counties for more than eight decades.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.