Convicted killer Alex Murdaugh pleaded guilty Friday to over 100 financial crimes as he reached a plea agreement, admitting he targeted clients and friends in a scheme to steal millions of dollars.
The legal scion, 55, embezzled over $9 million while working as one of South Carolina’s most prominent lawyers, as prosecutors say he was able to rely on his family name to con clients at his law firm.
As the staggering number of charges were read out, Murdaugh – sporting a longer haircut than his shaved-head look in recent mugshots – appeared unmoved by the moment as he sat by his attorneys, shackled in an orange jumpsuit.
Prosecuting attorney Creighton Waters sought a 27 year sentence, but asked the judge to consider sentencing at a later date to allow time to notify every victim, and to allow them to speak to Murdough in victim impact statements if they wish.
When asked by the judge if he understood the seriousness of his guilty plea, Murdaugh responded there was ‘no question in my mind.’
‘I’ve had a long time to think about it,’ he added, to which the judge replied: ‘I’m sure you have.’
His financial crimes trial was scheduled for November 27, when prosecutors were expected to argue that he murdered his wife Maggie and son Paul to distract from his financial crimes as his life spiraling out of control amid a secret opioid addiction.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to 22 of the charges against him.
Alex Murdaugh seen back in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing, where he accepted a plea agreement over 100 financial crimes and admitted to swindling millions of dollars
Murdaugh speaks with his defense attorney Dick Harpootlian in court Friday
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian (left) speaks with prosecuting attorney Creighton Waters (right), who is expected to argue that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his alleged financial crimes
Waters eulogized on Murdaugh’s long career in the legal system after reading out the plea agreement, saying that the former lawyer acted out of ‘entitlement’ and never thought he would get caught, fueled by an ‘insatiable need for money.’
Murdaugh stared down at the table for much of the hearing, as Waters detailed the cheque forgery scheme that Murdaugh set up that continued for years.
At certain moments, Murdaugh exchanged looks and smirked with his attorneys, but remained silent throughout the reading of how he coldly targeted clients who gave him their trust.
Noting one ‘longtime friend’ that Murdaugh stole from, Waters said that the attorney callously swindled hundreds and thousands from someone who ‘trusted him implicitly.’
In another crime, Waters detailed how Murdaugh lied to one of his clients and told her he would only be able to obtain a $30,000 settlement, while secretly agreeing to a $150,000 settlement and pocketing the extra money.
Waters added that Murdaugh was usually able to convince his victims that he was working in their interests as he would still hand over significant cheques to them, while secretly siphoning off fractions of the total.
Murdaugh’s financial crimes case was a pivotal aspect of his double murder trial earlier this year, with the hundred charges ranging from tax evasion, money laundering, forgery and fraud.
Ronnie Richter, an attorney representing victims of Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes, has said the legal scion’s actions were tantamount to a ‘Ponzi scheme.’
‘Alex’s financial crimes are nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, and all Ponzi schemes work in the same way—I have to continue to steal from new people to replace the money I’ve stolen from old people,’ he said.
‘All Ponzi schemes end the same way. Sooner or later it’s like musical chairs: the music stops and someone is without a chair.
‘And that’s exactly what happened with Alex. The music stopped, he ran out of places to get money and all of his financial crimes were exposed.’
Murdaugh was convicted on March 2 of the murders of his son Paul and wife Maggie at their South Carolina hunting lodge in June 2021. He is now serving life without parole, and is appealing his sentence
Among the allegations against Murdaugh is that he stole over $3 million from his late housekeeper’s estate and insurance carriers, siphoning settlement money from the 2018 ‘trip and fall accident’ death of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
Murdaugh’s attorneys are seeking the financial crimes trial to be moved out of the Lowcountry or delayed until at least March, arguing that his case could be tainted by the media and public interest around him.
Last week, Murdaugh’s attorney Dick Harpootlian cited responses to a pre-trial juror questionnaire asking the extent to which potential jurors understand his criminal charges due to ‘exhaustive media coverage.’
In response, Eric Bland, an attorney representing one of Murdaugh’s alleged financial victims, said the request was baseless as a juror is not selected based on their knowledge of the case.
‘It’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black, the fact of the matter is you can go to Tanzania and try to have the trial there and there are people that have heard about the Murdaugh matter there,’ Bland said.
‘Just because people have heard about the Murdaugh matter, doesn’t mean they can’t be fair impartial and objective jurors.
‘You don’t have to pick a jury where 12 people have never heard of the Murdaugh matter. They have to be willing to put aside any knowledge that they have and listen to the evidence and be fair and impartial, that’s the standard and I think they can.’
Murdaugh allegedly siphoned over $3 million in settlement funds from the estate of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died in 2018 from a ‘trip and fall accident’
Buster, Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh are pictured in a photo presented to jurors during the trial at Colleton County court on Tuesday, February 14
The financial crimes case is presided over by Judge Clifton Newman, who recused himself this week from any of Murdaugh’s future hearings over his murder conviction as his lawyers seek a retrial.
Newman came under fire for a controversial interview with NBC News a month after the trial, where he commented on the blockbuster trial just a month after its conclusion.
Last month, Murdaugh pleaded guilty to some financial crimes he has been accused of, saying he wanted to ‘take responsibility’ for 22 counts of financial fraud and money laundering.
‘I want my son to see me take responsibility,’ he said, adding his hope was ‘that by taking responsibility that the people I’ve hurt can begin to heal.’
His plea deal requires him to repay $9 million he admitted to stealing from clients at his law firm, and ensures that any jail time will be served simultaneously with any he receives from state courts.
Ahead of Friday’s hearing, his attorneys have requested the trial be moved to another location or moved back significantly as they raise concerns about jury impartiality for the notorious killer’s case.
The killer is also seeking a retrial in his murder trial over similar allegations, which have been focused upon Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill who is accused of improperly counseling jurors to disregard Murdaugh’s testimony and pressured them to reach a quick verdict.
As Murdaugh prepares to stand trial for his alleged financial crimes, the lead investigators in his murder investigation have revealed the moment they found the smoking gun in his case.
Breaking their silence for the first time since the prominent South Carolina attorney’s trial in March, investigators Brett Dove and David Owen spoke to Dateline NBC, in an episode airing tonight at 9pm, about the discovery of video evidence proving he lied about being at the scene of the crime.
The evidence in question was a final cell phone video recorded by Murdaugh’s son Paul on the night of the murders, in which a voice believed to be the patriarch could be heard at a time when he claimed he was not at the scene.
‘I listened to it three to four times, to make sure I was hearing, because I was in disbelief,’ said Dove, as Owen described the moment as ‘really exciting.’
‘I can prove Alex was lying to me,’ he added, and agreed that was the smoking gun that ‘blew the case wide open.’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail