Murdaugh indicted on fraud charges after South Carolina murder convictions

FILE PHOTO: Richard Alexander Murdaugh is seen in a mugshot taken after his arrest, in Columbia

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) - Disbarred South Carolina lawyer Richard "Alex" Murdaugh, already convicted of murdering his wife and son, on Wednesday was indicted by a federal grand jury on 22 counts of financial fraud, including charges involving his housekeeper's death.

Murdaugh, 54, the scion of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, was convicted in March for the June 2021 murders of his wife, Margaret, and younger son, Paul.

Prosecutors said he gunned down his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes, including the theft of millions of dollars from his law partners and clients. He is accused of using money to feed a years-long addiction to opioids and support an expensive lifestyle.

The new indictments codify allegations that the former personal injury lawyer defrauded more than $3.4 million from an insurance settlement meant for the family of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office in South Carolina said. Satterfield died in 2018 after a fall at Murdaugh's home in Hampton, South Carolina

Murdaugh is also accused of siphoning off disbursements from personal injury settlements to bank accounts controlled by him, as well as wire fraud and collecting fees on nonexistent annuities, the U.S. attorney's statement said.

“Trust in our legal system begins with trust in its lawyers,” said U.S. Attorney Adair Boroughs.

“South Carolinians turn to lawyers when they are at their most vulnerable, and in our state, those who abuse the public’s trust and enrich themselves by fraud, theft, and self-dealing will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Murdaugh's attorneys, Jim Griffin and Richard Harpootlian, told Reuters: "Alex has been cooperating with the United States Attorneys’ Office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities. We anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial."

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Bill Berkrot)