By JEFFREY COLLINS Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A disbarred South Carolina attorney charged with killing his wife and son has been indicted on 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 the State Grand Jury on Tuesday and released publicly Friday.
Murdaugh is in jail set likely to stand trial in January on murder charges for the June 2021 shooting deaths of his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul. They were killed with different guns outside one of the family’s homes in Colleton County, investigators said.
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 got for about a dozen poorer clients in injury or wrongful death 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 get a man to kill him so his surviving son could collect 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 is also eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors haven’t indicated if 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 turned into a legal giant, winning millions of dollars of verdicts in tiny Hampton County.
Some attorneys would loan the firm money at the start of a year to pay expenses and then get paid back once regular revenue came in. Murdaugh didn’t participate, but the firm accidentally wrote him a $121,000 loan repayment check that was supposed to go to his brother, according to one indictment.
Murdaugh pointed out the mistake, said the check was supposed to go to him and had another one 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.
The money laundering and computer crime charges came because Murdaugh hid the money from banking regulations through smaller online transfers and checks written to himself and others, investigators said.
Through his attorneys, Murdaugh has adamantly denied killing his wife and son. His lawyers have said he also plans to right every financial wrong he can.
Along with the family’s massive civil law firm, Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the elected prosecutors in Hampton County and four surrounding counties for more than eight decades.