Disgraced former South Carolina lawyer Murdaugh pleads guilty to bank fraud

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Disbarred South Carolina attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh, who was convicted of murdering his wife and son, pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to nearly two dozen bank fraud and other financial crimes in which he stole millions of dollars.

Murdaugh, 54, the scion of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, was convicted in March for the 2021 murders of his wife, Margaret, and younger son, Paul on their family estate.

Murdaugh has appealed his murder convictions, maintains his innocence and is seeking a new trial.

In a appearance in a Charleston, South Carolina, federal court on Thursday, Murdaugh finalized a plea deal in which he admitted to 22 financial crimes and agreed to pay about $9 million in restitution, according to court records and his attorney.

“Honestly, there are two things Alex will tell you,” attorney Dick Harpootlian said at a press conference. “One, he stole the money. Two, he did not kill Maggie and Paul.”

At Murdaugh’s murder trial, prosecutors said he gunned down his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes, including the theft through bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, in crimes dating back to 2011.

Prosecutors said he used the money to feed a years-long addiction to opioids and support an expensive lifestyle.

Assistant United States Attorney Emily Evans Limehouse said, “Today is the first time he’s been held accountable for financial theft spanning decades.”

“He will be held responsible for all his crimes at sentencing,” she said.

The financial crimes carry a minimum of 20 years in prison, but prosecutors are asking the judge that he serve the time concurrently with his two life sentences on murder. Federal Judge Richard Gergel is expected to sentence Murdaugh on the financial crimes at a later date.

Murdaugh faces similar financial crime charges in state court and a state trial is scheduled for late November.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Timothy Gardner)


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