Alex Murdaugh and his co-conspirators Cory Fleming and Russell Laffitte have all been found guilty in federal prison for stealing millions from client settlement funds.
Murdaugh and Fleming have also both pled guilty to the same charges in South Carolina state court while Laffitte awaits his state trial scheduled for fall 2024.
According to the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Murdaugh defrauded many clients out of injury and wrongful death settlements with assistance from longtime friend and former attorney Fleming and Laffitte, the former chief executive at Palmetto State Bank.
Murdaugh directed Fleming to deposit three checks from client trust accounts into Murdaugh’s personal accounts while Laffitte served as a conservator to many of Murdaugh’s personal injury clients.
In addition to federal and state financial charges, Murdaugh was also found guilty for murdering his wife and youngest son in March 2023.
Below is a breakdown of the three men’s state and federal charges, pleas and sentences:
STATE FINANCIAL CRIMES
Following his suspension from practicing law in Sep. 2021, Murdaugh was indicted by the South Carolina State Grand Jury on over 100 state charges.
Murdaugh’s state charges include:
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud
- Wire fraud
- Bank fraud
- Money laundering
On November 18, 2023, Murdaugh pled guilty to 22 counts after coming to an agreement with state prosecutors.
Mandy, Liz and Eric Bland had a heated discussion about the plea agreement in Cup of Justice episode 56.
The plea agreement signed by Murdaugh and his defense team waives his right to a future appeal.
On November 28, Judge Newman approved the agreement, sentencing Murdaugh to 27 years in state prison. 20 years are to be served concurrently, plus 7 additional years to be served consecutive to that first 20 years.
Credit was given for time served to be calculated by the SC Department of Corrections.
STATE MURDER CRIME
In addition to 22 state financial charges, Alex was found guilty of murdering his wife and son, Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
Presiding Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Alex to two life sentences after a jury found him guilty in March 2023 following a six-week trial.
Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, Alex’s defense team, filed an immediate appeal following the verdict and sentence.
In September, Harpootlian and Griffin requested the court of appeals withdraw the request so they could file a motion for a retrial on the basis of alleged jury tampering.
According to Murdaugh’s defense team, Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill allegedly interfered with members of the jury during the murder trial.
Following this accusation, Harpootlian and Griffin asked the supreme court to remove Judge Newman from presiding over any of the murder-related charges.
In November, Judge Newmann recused himself from all hearings related to the murder case however he is still presiding over Alex’s state financial charges.
An evidentiary hearing on the motion for a new trial is expected to take place in early 2024. It is unknown which judge will preside.
During a federal court hearing In September 2023, Alex pled guilty to 22 counts of federal financial fraud and money laundering.
He was also ordered to provide information or evidentiary evidence and items to the government, as well as a polygraph test.
The plea was accepted by Judge Richard Gergel, the same judge handling Russell Laffitte and Cory Fleming’s federal cases.
According to assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Limehouse, the plea deal can be voided if Murdaugh is untruthful.
Prior to the September guilty plea, Murdaugh entered a not guilty plea for all 22 federal counts in May 2023.
Cory Fleming, a former law classmate and best friend of Murdaugh, pleaded guilty to defrauding Murdaugh’s clients out of more than $5 million in Sept. 2023.
On Aug. 23, 2023, Fleming appeared in front of presiding Judge Newman in state court and pleaded guilty to all 23 state financial crimes and admitted to stealing an estimated $4.3 million from the Satterfield family and $1 million from the Pinckneys.
Judge Newman sentenced Fleming to 10 years in state prison for his role in the Satterfield family theft and another 10 years for stealing from the Pinckney family in state court on Sept. 14.
Fleming’s 10 year sentences are to be served consecutively, meaning Fleming will spend 20 years total in state prison directly following the end of the federal sentence.
Fleming has appealed his state sentence.
Cory Fleming pled guilty to one count of federal conspiracy to commit wire fraud in May 2023.
In Aug. 2023, Presiding Judge Richard Gergel sentenced Cory Fleming to 46 months in federal prison. Fleming was also ordered to pay $102,221 in restitution.
Moments after his sentence was read, Fleming voluntarily surrendered and was escorted out of the courthouse by U.S. Marshals.
Fleming is currently serving his federal sentence at FCI Jesup in Jesup, Georgia following a short stay at USP Atlanta. He is currently assigned to the low security satellite facility of the prison, a BOP spokesperson told Luna Shark Media.
You can learn more about Cory’s federal sentence in True Sunlight episode 12 and Cup of Justice episode 43.
Attorney General Alan Wilson indicted Russell Laffitte, former chief executive of Palmetto State Bank, in April 2022 for his involvement in helping Murdaugh steal settlement funds from clients.
In May 2022, Russell Laffitte was indicted on 21 charges by the South Carolina State Grand Jury for “schemes to defraud victims of $1,832,772.30,” according to Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office.
Laffitte is represented by Mark Moore and lawyer-legislator Todd Rutherford, who has special immunity from his attorney responsibilities while the legislature is in session (January through May.)
Laffitte’s state trial is not expected to go forward until fall 2024.
Following a nearly three week trial in Nov. 2022, Laffitte was found guilty of wire and bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and three counts of misapplication of bank funds.
In Aug. 2023, presiding Judge Richard Gergel sentenced Laffitte to seven years in federal prison.
Laffitte was also ordered to forfeit $85,854.73 in illegal proceeds and a restitution totalling over $3.5 million.
He is currently serving his federal sentence at the low security facility at FSL Coleman in Sumterville, Florida.
You can read more about FSL Coleman here.
Alex Murdaugh State Financial Sentence: 27 years
Alex Murdaugh Murder Sentence: 2 consecutive life sentences
Alex Murdaugh Federal Sentence: TBD
Cory Fleming State Sentence: effectively 13 years total
Cory Fleming Federal Sentence: 46 months
Russell Laffitte State Sentence: TBD
Russell Laffitte Federal Sentence: 76 months
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Sam is an award winning-journalist originally from Raleigh, North Carolina and currently living in Brooklyn, New York.
She graduated from Syracuse University in 2020 where she studied magazine journalism, photography, and sociology.
She joined Luna Shark Media in 2023 where she assists with research, producing, recording and editing for True Sunlight and Cup of Justice podcasts.
Through her detailed, ethical reporting and multimedia experience, Sam creates enterprise stories and works to unravel the truth around her.