Lawsuits: Jailed lawyer Alex Murdaugh may be hiding millions
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Attorneys in three different civil lawsuits against Alex Murdaugh want the court to have independent representatives take control of the money and other assets of the South Carolina lawyer involved in a half-dozen state police investigations.
The court motions in the cases, all filed last week, said they fear Murdaugh is trying to hide millions of dollars they could possibly collect in their lawsuits by shifting money between unknown accounts and potentially selling off property and a boat after he turned all his affairs over to his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh.
State police first started investigating Alex Murdaugh and his family in June, when he found his wife and other son shot to death at their home. No one has been charged in that case.
The similar motions in the three lawsuits include several documents: a photo of Buster Murdaugh that lawyers said was taken in October at a Las Vegas casino; a nearly $1 million mortgage a property owner paid off to Alex Murdaugh; an online listing asking $114,000 for Murdaugh’s boat; and a nearly 2-year-old unpaid tax bill that could lead to the auction of Murdaugh’s beach home on Edisto Island.
Murdaugh’s attorneys have not responded to the request to have two lawyers review and catalog all of Murdaugh’s assets, bank accounts, insurance policies and expenditures and approve his spending.
“Alex Murdaugh has engaged in repeated dishonesty, deception and fraud. He has shown that he will go to extraordinary lengths to misappropriate, steal, transfer or otherwise dispose of money in a manner that benefits him or his family, with complete disregard for the interests of third persons,” the lawyers wrote in their motions.
Two of the lawsuits involve a fatal February 2019 boat crash where Paul Murdaugh was charged after investigators said he was driving drunk and recklessly. They were filed by the family of a 19-year-old woman killed and a man on the boat who said the Murdaugh family tried to pin him as the boat’s driver.
The third lawsuit asking for control of Murdaugh’s money was filed by the family of Murdaugh’s late housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. She died after a 2018 fall in the family’s home.
Murdaugh has been charged with illegally pocketing nearly $3 million worth of insurance settlements that was supposed to go to Satterfield’s estate.
At his bond hearing, prosecutors detailed how Murdaugh stole the money by diverting it to his accounts. They said he then paid off a $100,000 credit card bill, transferred more than $300,000 to his father and $735,000 to himself.
The lawsuits noted well over half the settlement money remained unaccounted for in the prosecution’s presentation.
“Certainly, if Alex Murdaugh is capable of apparently diverting stolen assets in this manner, he is also capable of diverting legitimate assets,” the attorneys wrote in their lawsuits.
Murdaugh, 53, was first arrested Sept. 16 and was accused of trying to arrange his own death so Buster Murdaugh could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. That same day, the father signed a power of attorney for all his affairs over to his son, according to court records.
“While the power of attorney may have some legitimate purposes for someone unable to manage their own finances, the power of attorney also provides a mechanism for Buster Murdaugh to transfer, sell or otherwise handle Alex Murdaugh’s assets in a manner that diverts the assets,” the motion said.
On Sept. 23, someone who owed a nearly $1 million mortgage to Alex Murdaugh from 2013 paid it off. Records don’t indicate how much money changed hands.
The motions also include a photo that the lawyers said is Buster Murdaugh at a gambling table at the Venetian Hotel in October. The documents don’t say how the photo was obtained.
In addition to the investigations into the stolen insurance money and the insurance fraud, state police continue to investigate the shooting deaths, millions of dollars missing from Murdaugh’s former law firm that was founded by his great-grandfather, a 2015 hit-and-run death and whether Murdaugh and his family obstructed the investigation into the boat crash.
Murdaugh insists he had nothing to do with the June deaths of his wife, Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, 22. Murdaugh said he returned to their rural Colleton County home to find them shot to death. Tight-lipped state police have neither named any suspects nor ruled anyone out.
Murdaugh remains in jail without bond on the charges he stole money from his late housekeeper’s estate. A judge last week asked for a report on Murdaugh’s mental state before considering whether to set bond.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.