US: Two Time Murderer Receives Additional 40 Years for Financial Crimes

Опубликовано: 04 Апрель 2024

Fraud Pix4freeMurdaugh’s 40 year sentence for fraud and money laundering will run alongside his two life sentences for the murder of his wife and son. (Photo: Nick Youngson, Pix4free, License)

A convicted murderer serving two consecutive life sentences received an additional 40 years in prison  for fraud and money laundering, which stemmed from his theft of millions of dollars from his clients during his time as a U.S. personal injury attorney.

Richard Alexander Murdaugh, 55, of South Carolina was found guilty of 22 financial crimes that saw him steal millions from his clients settlement funds, which he then used to enrich his own livelihood.

His newly christened 40-year sentence will run concurrently with the two life sentences he is already in prison for, which resulted from his murder of his 55-year-old wife Maggie and 22-year-old son Paul in 2021.

In one scheme, which ran from 2011 to 2021, Murdaugh admitted that he and his banker, Russell Laffitte, defrauded several of his personal injury clients.

He had his employees make settlement cheques meant for his clients payable to a state bank; the funds were then drawn by his law firm’s trust account. Laffitte was Murdaugh’s inside man in the bank; he distributed the cheques for Murdaugh’s benefit, which included settling personal loans, expenses, and cash withdrawals.

Murdaugh pleaded guilty to various theft, wire fraud, and bank fraud charges related to the scheme. Laffitte was sentenced in August 2023 to seven years in federal prison.

“Murdaugh’s victims turned to him when they were particularly vulnerable, after suffering serious injuries and losing loved ones,” said Adair F. Boroughs, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. “They put their trust in him as their lawyer, and he betrayed them.”

Another scheme, which ran from 2005 to 2021, saw Murdaugh again obtain money from his clients and law firm under false pretenses, authorities said.

Prosecutors outlined how he personally enriched himself at the expense of his clients through various means. This included filing fraudulent expenses that the client never suffered, such as for medical, construction, or travel reasons.

He also ordered other attorneys working on cases with him to disburse case revenues directly to him, rather than through the law firm’s accounts.

Lastly, he stole insurance and personal injury payouts intended for his clients and deposited them into his personal account.

Murdaugh admitted that he did this through a bank account he created under the name ‘Forge’, which he passed off as a legitimate corporation for structuring insurance settlements.

In the final scheme presented at his trial, Murdaugh confessed to having defrauded the estate of his former housekeeper after she passed away, along with his homeowner’s insurance carriers.

The housekeeper died after she suffered a fall in his home.

He defrauded them, authorities said, with another attorney, Cory Fleming, whom Murdaugh recommended to his former housekeeper’s estate to hire to represent them in their claim against the insurance carriers.

Together, they conspired to swindle their victims for more than US$4 million. The money, by Murdaugh’s direction, was then retained in its entirety by the duo for their own benefit, at the expense of his former housekeeper’s estate and beneficiaries.

“Murdaugh and Fleming knew the funds did not belong to them and that there were no legitimate prosecution expenses,” authorities said. The money was then laundered through Murdaugh’s fake Forge account.

Fleming has already pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and received a 46-month sentence in August 2023.

Boroughs commented that Murdaugh’s victims put their trust in him as their lawyer, yet still he betrayed them. “His crimes were cold, calculated, and brazen, and he earned every day of his 40-year sentence,” Boroughs said.

Altogether, Murdaugh confessed to 22 financial crimes that included wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.

Though his sentence will run concurrently with his two life sentences for murder, he will still have to surrender $18.7 million in forfeiture penalties and restitution payments to his victims.