Alex Murdaugh plotted to sue himself with the family of his longtime housekeeper who died under mysterious circumstances – then stiffed them when he got a huge insurance payout, an arrest warrant shows.
The embattled member of an influential South Carolina legal dynasty promised the family funds for funeral expenses and compensation for her children in a $4.3 million insurance settlement that he ultimately stole for himself, the warrant shows.
Murdaugh was arrested Thursday on two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses relating to the 2018 death of maid Gloria Satterfield.
He verbally promised her family they would be financially taken care of before he conspired with another attorney “to deprive the Satterfield family of insurance settlements owed to them by converting [the money] to Mr. Murdaugh’s own use,” says an affidavit from a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent including with the arrest warrant.
Satterfield, 57, suffered a stroke and died after spending weeks in a coma. She had allegedly tripped over Murdaugh’s dogs and hit her head at the South Carolina legal scion’s Islandton home in February 2018. She died before she was able to recount what had happened, and no autopsy was ever conducted, according to Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper, who told authorities that the death was suspicious.
After Murdaugh had promised the family money collected from a personal liability insurance suit, the family employed the services of attorney Cory Fleming of Moss, Kuhn and Fleming law firm in Beaufort, the affidavit says.
Fleming, who is named as Murdaugh’s best friend and college roommate in a related lawsuit against Murdaugh, brokered an insurance settlement of $4.3 million with $2.7 million designated for the Satterfield family. However, the Satterfields were never paid any proceeds or even notified of the settlement, which prosecutors say was not properly filed in court records, prosecutors said.
On May 13, 2019, Fleming, under Murdaugh’s direction, wrote a $2.9 million check from his law to an account owned by Murdaugh titled “Forge,” named to misrepresent legitimate insurance settlement company “Forge Consulting, LLC,” which had no connection to the Satterfield settlement, according to the affidavit.
A separate charge alleges that separately in January 2019, Fleming brokered a settlement of $505,000, of which $403,500 was deposited to the “Forge” account. Satterfield’s family never saw a dime of that settlement either, prosecutors said.
Satterfield’s two sons — Brian Harriott and Tony Satterfield — have filed a lawsuit against Murdaugh over the cash, saying the prominent lawyer had promised “he was going to take care” of them.
Following Satterfield’s funeral, Murdaugh, 53, agreed to pay them $500,000 after suing himself to collect on personal liability insurance, the lawsuit alleged.
“Settlements start happening. Nobody’s telling the family. They never found out. The only reason they found out is because of reporters… started digging [after son Paul Murdaugh was arrested for a 2019 deadly drunk boating accident],” the Satterfields’ attorney Eric Bland said.
“At the end of 2020 our clients said, ‘Wait a minute. Mom’s claim settled for $505,000? We didn’t get any of that money.’”
In October, Fleming agreed to pay back all fees and expenses his firm received from the $4.3 million recovered from the suit to Satterfield’s family, according to Bland.
“Mr. Fleming stepped forward and did the right thing by the Estate,” Bland wrote in a press release on Oct. 3. “Mr. Fleming and his law firm maintain, they — like others — were victims of Alex Murdaugh’s fraudulent scheme.”
The sons’ attorneys said on Thursday that the Satterfield family is “extremely grateful” that criminal charges have been brought.
Murdaugh’s lawyers said on Thursday that he “intends to fully cooperate with this investigation, as he has with the investigation into the murder of his wife and son,” Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, who were found shot dead on Murdaugh’s property in June.
Earlier this week, Murdaugh’s attorney acknowledged that he has been a person of interest in their deaths since the investigation began.
Murdaugh was arrested in September for a botched plan to have himself shot and killed by a hired gunman as part of a bizarre scheme to leave his son Buster with $10 million in insurance cash.
He was also sued last week by his own law firm after confessing to using a fraudulent bank account to siphon millions for his personal use in a scheme uncovered on Sept. 2.
Murdaugh has acknowledged that he will be going to prison his crimes at some point, his lawyer said on ABC’s Good Morning America on Thursday.
“Look, he’s reconciled to the fact he’s going to prison,” attorney Dick Harpootlian said, revealing that the once-powerful attorney has struggled with a severe opioid and drug addiction for over 20 years that “put him in a position where he did these stupid, illegal things.”