Alex Murdaugh pleads not guilty to wire fraud, money laundering charges

Murdaugh is serving a life sentence for killing his wife and son, along with 22 financial charges

Convicted+murderer+Alex+Murdaugh+has+pleaded+not+guilty+to+22+federal+charges+of+financial+fraud.

JOSHUA BOUCHER / The State via Associated Press

Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to 22 federal charges of financial fraud.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Alex Murdaugh was arraigned Wednesday on federal money laundering and wire fraud charges for indictments saying he stole money from his clients, and although he pleaded not guilty for now, his lawyer said that might change soon.

Murdaugh is already serving a life sentence in a South Carolina state prison for killing his wife and son, and the details of the 22 financial charges are not new. State prosecutors have indicted him on similar charges, saying he diverted money meant for clients and a wrongful death settlement for his family’s longtime housekeeper who fell at Murdaugh’s home to his own bank accounts.

Murdaugh’s lawyers said in a statement last week the former attorney has been cooperating with federal investigators, and they anticipated the latest charges would be “quickly resolved without a trial.”

A federal guilty plea to the charges that can mean decades in prison would guarantee a long time behind bars for Murdaugh even if his pending appeal of his double murder conviction was successful.

Murdaugh took the stand at his murder trial earlier this year to repeatedly deny shooting his son, Paul, 22, and wife, Maggie, 52, at their home. Prosecutors said he decided to kill them because his millions of dollars of theft were about to be discovered, and he was hoping their deaths would buy him sympathy and time to figure out a cover-up.

Murdaugh, who turned 55 in protective custody Saturday, also faces around 100 other state charges, including stealing from clients and his family’s law firm, insurance fraud and tax evasion.

Prosecutors, Murdaugh’s attorneys and state Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the murder trial, are trying to find court time to try at least some of those charges before Newman has to retire because of his age Dec. 31.

In federal court, Murdaugh faces 14 counts of money laundering, five counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

Cory Fleming — an old college roommate and godfather to one of his sons — pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his part in helping Murdaugh steal more than $4 million in wrongful-death settlements with insurers meant for the family of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.

The other allegations prosecutors detail in Murdaugh’s federal indictments already have been revealed in state legal papers.

Murdaugh and banker friend Russell Laffitte worked together to take settlement money out of clients’ accounts, prosecutors said. Laffitte was convicted of six wire and bank fraud charges in November.

Other federal indictments give detailed allegations of how Murdaugh created a bank account that had a similar name to a legitimate company that handled settlements to steal money from clients.

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