Freeze Alex Murdaugh’s assets and track all his spending, SC lawyers say in motions

·6 min read
Alex Murdaugh enters the Richland County Courthouse before he is denied bond on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

Three lawyers are filing motions seeking to prevent Alex Murdaugh or his sole surviving son, Buster, from disposing of any of the father’s financial or property assets without approval by a judge.

The motion, made in three separate Hampton County lawsuits that name Murdaugh as a defendant, also seek to have a judge appoint a receiver — or financial overseer — who would oversee Murdaugh’s assets and track his previous spending, the lawyers said.

The lawyers also seek an immediate injunction to stop Murdaugh and Buster from spending any of Murdaugh’s money or selling any property. They also seek to have any ill-gotten gains by Murdaugh clawed back from people or companies he has spent stolen money on.

“Irreparable injury, loss or damage will result in the absence of an injunction to this effect,” said one motion filed by Columbia attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter.

Murdaugh’s “pattern and practice involves carefully devised plans to defraud, to deceive and to conceal his actions when money is at issue. ... Alex Murdaugh cannot and should not be trusted as to the handling of his assets going forward,” said another motion filed by Allendale attorney Mark Tinsley.

The motions note that Murdaugh is embroiled in various criminal and civil investigations in which he is alleged to have misappropriated millions of dollars. They assert that he must be stopped from disposing of any more assets. The motions also describe some of Murdaugh’s known assets and list some known expenditures.

The motions are the latest events in a sprawling series of intertwined criminal and civil legal actions and probes that revolve around the once-prominent Lowcountry lawyer, who for months since the unsolved June 7 shooting murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, has been the focus of considerable statewide and national interest.

Earlier this week, a state circuit judge denied bond for Murdaugh and ruled he must stay in jail pending a psychological evaluation that assessed his mental health. Murdaugh has been criminally charged with embezzling millions from an estate.

Bland’s and Richter’s lawsuit, filed in September, alleges Murdaugh stole $2.7 million from the legitimate heirs of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaughs’ longtime housekeeper, who died of fatal injuries received in a 2018 fall at the family home. The money, which came from insurance policies Murdaugh carried, was paid into Satterfield’s estate and was distributed to Murdaugh instead of to Satterfield’s two sons.

Tinsley represents Renee Beach, the mother of Mallory Beach, a 19-year-old woman who died in a 2019 nighttime boat crash in a watercraft allegedly piloted by Paul Murdaugh, Murdaugh’s late son. Renee Beach’s lawsuit names Murdaugh and Buster as defendants, as well as others.

The other attorney is Joe McCulloch, of Columbia, who represents Connor Cook, who was injured in the same boat crash that killed Mallory. The Cook lawsuit also seeks damages from the Murdaughs.

The three lawyers said their motions, all similar and coordinated, were filed Friday.

All three motions seek to have Peter McCoy, a former U.S. attorney for South Carolina, and attorney John Lay appointed as co-receivers of all assets controlled by Murdaugh and Buster.

As co-receivers, they will have the authority to locate and oversee the dispositions of all the assets controlled by both Murdaughs.

“The motions seek to trace every single financial action that Alex Murdaugh has done since 2010,” Bland said.

Tinsley’s motion said, in part, “Alex Murdaugh has demonstrated an extraordinary pattern and practice of deceit and fraud in the handling of his assets and by his actions to misappropriate assets belonging to others. His pattern and practice involves carefully devised plans to defraud, to deceive and to conceal where money is concerned.”

To illustrate how Murdaugh money is being spent, Tinsley’s motion also contained as an exhibit a photo of Buster allegedly sitting at a casino table. The photo was taken at the Venetian Hotel in October 2021.

The motions said that since the underlying lawsuits seeking damages against Murdaugh are still pending, the plaintiffs have an interest in making sure he and Buster — to whom Murdaugh gave a power of attorney on Sept. 16 — cannot dispose of any assets they have.

Alex Murdaugh’s assets

The lawyers’ motions also allege various circumstances regarding Murdaugh’s financial situation.

On Sept. 16, after Murdaugh’s arrest that day for allegedly committing a $10 million insurance fraud in a botched suicide attempt, his lawyer Dick Harpootlian described him as essentially “broke.”

However, the motions said, Murdaugh was previously known to have significant assets.

They include income generated by his “partnership interest in the law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick; his interest in a 1,700-acre Moselle tract and other properties in Hampton and Colleton counties; assets inherited from his late father, Randolph Murdaugh III, who died on June 10; inherited assets from his late wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, both of whom died on June 7; and an interest in the Randolph Murdaugh, III Trust dated June 23, 2020.”

The state Attorney General’s office has alleged that Murdaugh stole $3.4 million from the Satterfield estate in 2019. Of that money, he paid off a $100,000 credit card debt and gave more than $300,000 to his late father. He also is alleged to have transferred more than $735,000 to his personal bank account.

Murdaugh is under criminal investigation for a variety of “personal and professional” matters, from allegations of obstruction of justice in the boating death case to being a “person of interest” in the unsolved murders of his wife and son.

On Sept. 16, Murdaugh gave a sweeping power of attorney to his surviving son Buster that “provides a mechanism for Buster Murdaugh to transfer, sell or otherwise handle Alex Murdaugh’s assets in a manner that diverts the assets from the Plaintiffs,” the motions said.

Then, on Sept. 23, Buster acted as his father’s agent and satisfied a $970,354 mortgage on a 42-acre tract in Colleton and Hampton counties. On Oct. 1, Murdaugh’s ownership in Green Swamp Club, a a 7,000-acre hunting club on the Savannah River in Jasper County, was sold for an undisclosed sum.

Both are currently trying to sell a boat for $115,000.

Tinsley told The State he and his two colleagues had little choice but to file the motions.

“We are doing this to prevent any further wasting of assets and to try to begin to determine what they (Alex and Buster Murdaugh) have done to date,” he said.

McCulloch agreed, saying he hopes there will be a hearing soon.

“We have seen many strange things, not the least of which is the frantic efforts to move pieces of the financial puzzle around and liquidate assets,” he said.

Although the S.C. Supreme Court has consolidated all criminal cases and investigations concerning Murdaugh under Judge Clifton Newman, the high court has made no similar ruling with respect to the civil damage lawsuits against Murdaugh.

Consequently, it is not yet known which judge or judges will decide on the motions by Bland, Richter, Tinsley and McCulloch in their civil cases.

John Tiller, a Charleston attorney who represents Murdaugh in the Beach lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.

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