Alex Murdaugh sentenced to 40 years in federal prison. 'Extensive, brazen and callous.'

by 24USATVApril 2, 2024, 2:40 a.m. 22
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With two state prison sentences already on his shoulders, confessed and convicted fraudster Alex Murdaugh walked into a federal courthouse in Charleston Monday to receive yet another — a hefty federal prison sentence.

Disbarred Hampton, S.C., lawyer Richard Alexander “Alex” Murdaugh was sentenced to a total of 480 months, or 40 years, in federal prison, in connection with a sweeping decade-plus, multi-million-dollar financial fraud crime spree that engulfed more than a score of victims in multiple South Carolina Lowcountry counties.

While Murdaugh will remain in state prison, this federal term will run concurrently with Murdaugh's state terms. He is currently serving a pair of life sentences for the June 2021 murders of his wife and son, and 27 years for similar S.C. State Grand Jury fraud charges.

Murdaugh has also been ordered to pay a total of $8,762,731.88 in restitution to several of his former law clients and his former law firm.

United States District Judge Richard M. Gergel imposed the sentence after a brief sentencing hearing at the United States District Courthouse on Meeting Street in Charleston.

Murdaugh, 55, pleaded guilty on Sept. 21, 2023, to 22 charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; bank fraud; wire fraud; and money laundering. He also later pleaded guilty to similar state charges.

“Alex Murdaugh’s financial crimes were extensive, brazen, and callous,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs after Murdaugh signed the plea agreement last fall. “He stole indiscriminately from his clients, from his law firm, and from others who trusted him. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and SLED committed to investigating and prosecuting Murdaugh’s financial crimes when they first came to light. Today marks our fulfillment of that promise.”

Judge Gergel used an "upward variance" in sentencing Murdaugh, which favored maximum sentences, in part as a deterrent for other white-collar criminals like corrupt lawyers.

Here is how the sentencing breaks down:
• 360 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; bank fraud; and two counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, all to run concurrently.
• 240 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud, to run concurrently to each other and to the 360-month sentences.
• 120 months for 14 counts of money laundering, to run concurrently to each other and consecutive to the 360- and 240-month sentences.

The court also ordered Murdaugh to pay $8,762,731.88 in restitution to his victims and imposed a $10,034,377.95 forfeiture order for Murdaugh’s ill-gotten gains.

During the hearing, Murdaugh addressed the court and his victims, saying that he was "filled with" guilt and sorrow for hurting people he loved, but appeared to continue to blame his crimes on his reported opiate addiction, which he said contributed to his criminal actions.

The drug addiction claim was an excuse the judge and federal prosecutors rebutted. Judge Gergel said that Murdaugh and his accomplices, which include another former lawyer and a former banker, were "seduced by the promises and delivery of large amounts of money."

No "truly addicted" person could have pulled off such complicated schemes, Judge Gergel added.

Two of Murdaugh's victims addressed the court, and as they did in state sentencing hearings, referenced the grace of God and forgiveness.

"God can judge you," said Pamela Pinckney, mother of the late Hakeem Pinckney, a deaf paraplegic whose settlement money was stolen. "I love you with the love of Jesus Christ."

"My heart goes out to you and your family, and I pray for you daily," said Tony Satterfield, the son of Murdaugh's late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, whose estate was involved in a Murdaugh scheme.

While none of the victim's attorneys were allowed to speak during the sentencing, which lasted roughly an hour, two of the victim's attorneys issued statements afterward.

"There is a staggering human toll for every cent he stole," said attorney Justin Bamberg, who represents several victims. "That's the difference when 'white collar' crime is committed by a lawyer against his own clients."

"Today was a banner day for Justice," stated attorney Eric Bland. "Two and a half years ago we asked the court to make sure when this all ended Alex Murdaugh got a full cup of justice. He got it. Federal Judge Richard Gergel took Alex Murdaugh to the proverbial wood shed. He gave him an additional 1/3 more prison time than what was asked by the federal prosecutors. He got a total of 40 years and will have to serve 17 years above the 23 that he will serve in state prison. Now, even if the murder conviction gets reversed, he will still spend the rest of his life in either state or federal prison and never get a fresh breath of air again. In the pantheon of career criminals, he is on Mount Rushmore. He is a convicted double murderer, thief, bank fraud, and income tax evader."

The U.S. District Attorney's Office issued a statement Monday afternoon with comments from state and federal officials.

“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. His crimes were cold, calculated, and brazen, and he earned every day of his 40-year sentence. We hope that it provides at least some closure to his victims.”

"Justice was served today and a sentence of this magnitude should caution anyone who engages in financial crimes," said Steve Jensen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Columbia Field Office. "The defendant's actions undermine the integrity of our financial systems and cause distrust. Our message is clear: We will hold those who commit financial fraud accountable, and they will be met with severe consequences."

“Law enforcement working together at every level is vital to solving crimes and holding offenders accountable,” said Chief Mark Keel of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. “I’ve always said from day one of this case, and every case SLED investigates is about following the facts no matter where they may lead. Today is another step forward for justice in South Carolina.”

Murdaugh's accomplices in these federal schemes, former Beaufort attorney Cory Fleming and former Hampton banker Russell Laffitte are currently serving federal prison sentences while facing additional state prison time.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emily Limehouse, Kathleen Stoughton, and Winston Holliday prosecuted the case.

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