KINGSTREE, S.C. (AP) — Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh ‘s old college buddy has pleaded guilty to a second set of charges for helping the disgraced South Carolina attorney steal millions of dollars of insurance settlements from the sons of Murdaugh’s dead housekeeper.
Cory Fleming, a 54-year-old former attorney, wasn’t immediately sentenced after his guilty plea to 23 state charges Wednesday.
Prosecutors indicated they would ask at a September hearing that Fleming spend more time in prison than the nearly four-year sentence he received for similar federal charges earlier this month, according to media reports.
During his federal sentencing, Fleming said he knew Murdaugh, now serving a life sentence for killing his wife and son, was going to steal something from the family of his housekeeper. She worked for Murdaugh’s family for decades before dying after a fall at their home in 2018.
But Fleming said he thought it might be $100,000 — not the entire $4 million-plus award.
Unless Fleming was “the dumbest man alive,” he knew what all Murdaugh was going to do, prosecutor Creighton Waters told the judge Wednesday.
When U.S. Judge Richard Gergel sentenced Fleming to 46 months in prison on the federal charges, he told Fleming he would let the state judge know he didn’t think the state charges should carry any more prison time.
However, South Carolina Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, who sentenced Murdaugh to life after a monthlong trial, doesn’t have to follow that recommendation at Fleming’s Sept. 14 state sentencing.
Fleming has surrendered his license to practice law in both Georgia and South Carolina, saying he dishonored the profession. He’s the second Murdaugh associate ordered to prison since investigators began scrutinizing every aspect of Murdaugh’s life in June 2021 after his wife and son were shot to death at their South Carolina home.
Banker Russell Laffitte was sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this month after pleading guilty to helping Murdaugh steal money from settlements for clients after vehicle wrecks or work injuries. Laffitte is appealing his conviction and sentence.
While Fleming knew Murdaugh was asking him to do wrong, he said he didn’t realize the depth of his old friend’s depravity.
Murdaugh still faces more than 100 charges in state and federal courts. Prosecutors say the crimes range from tax evasion and stealing from clients and his family’s law firm to running a drug and money laundering ring — even unsuccessfully arranging for someone to kill him so his surviving son could get life insurance money.
Newman plans a hearing on the status of those cases the same day Fleming is sentenced.
In Fleming’s case, the victims were Gloria Satterfield and her two sons. Satterfield cleaned the Murdaugh’s house, babysat their sons and did anything else the family asked for more than 20 years.
Murdaugh promised the sons, who were young adults, he would take care of them and recommended they hire Fleming as their lawyer. He didn’t tell them Fleming was a longtime friend, college roommate and godfather to one of his sons.
Murdaugh told insurance companies that Satterfield tripped over their dogs and convinced them to pay more than $4 million to what they though was Satterfield’s estate through Fleming. But instead, Murdaugh had Fleming send the checks to him. The sons didn’t see a dime until Murdaugh’s finances began to unravel and they hired a different attorney.
The state charges included a second fraud victim. Prosecutors said Fleming helped Murdaugh steal settlement money from a woman badly hurt in a car crash and used his part of the ill-gotten gains to charter a plane to go to the College World Series.