Who is Spencer Roberts, a newly introduced SC defendant linked to Smith and Murdaugh?

·4 min read
Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com

A South Carolina judge on Thursday revoked bond for Curtis “Eddie” Smith, a distant cousin and alleged co-conspirator of Alex Murdaugh’s, sending Smith back to jail indefinitely.

But it was the emergence of a new defendant — not named in an earlier press release from the S.C. Attorney General’s Office — caught up in the tangled web that raised new questions about the alleged money and drug scheme led by Murdaugh and Smith, 62.

On Thursday, Spencer Roberts, 34, of Colleton County, was given bond by Judge Clifton Newman for two white-collar charges of getting COVID-19 unemployment insurance illegally and obtaining property by false pretenses. The charges arose, like the charges that Murdaugh and Smith now face, from state grand jury actions.

Attorney General prosecutor Creighton Waters told Newman Thursday that one current warrant against Roberts charges him with applying for and accepting $24,000 in unemployment benefits during the pandemic by falsely claiming he was laid off from “Sims Car Wash,” and there is no such business.

Waters said the other warrant charges Roberts with filing false papers with the government saying he ran a COVID-19-affected business and needed $20,000 to meet his payroll.

Waters told Newman that Roberts is “part of the investigation down in the Lowcountry” — a reference to various financial and drug crimes that Murdaugh has been charged with, according to sources familiar with the case.

“Roberts received downstream a substantial number of checks allegedly originating from Alex Murdaugh,” Waters told the judge, adding that search warrants not yet made public in Roberts’ case mention Murdaugh and allege that Roberts participated in illegal acts involving “a substantial amount of narcotics.”

Additional investigative information alleges “Roberts’ alleged involvement in narcotics” and a “substantial amount of narcotics were found” as a result of the search warrants, Waters said.

After court, sources familiar with the case said that law enforcement believes Roberts was a key part of a pipeline that funneled drugs to Murdaugh through Smith. The sources asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Murdaugh’s attorneys, Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, have said Murdaugh had a longtime opioid drug addiction on which he spent large amounts of money.

The pipeline is believed to have worked this way, sources said: Murdaugh would give checks of stolen money to Smith, who would cash them. Then Smith would give the cash to Roberts, who would use the cash to buy drugs. Roberts would then give the drugs to Smith, who would then give them to Murdaugh, the sources said.

“This is an ongoing investigation. There is a lot more that’s being explored and that is to include a substantial amount of drugs,” Waters said.

The amount of drugs is “of trafficking weight,” Waters said Thursday, adding that drug trafficking charges carry a mandatory minimum 25-year sentence.

Waters did not explain why Roberts has not been charged with drug violations. However, prosecutors who are trying to get a person to testify against others often use the possibility of a serious charge as a lever to convince that person to talk.

Roberts was arrested Monday as law enforcement served search warrants on three properties in Colleton County, Waters said. He was “the central target” of the search warrants, which turned up a gambling den, a Glock pistol, drugs and cash, Waters said.

Roberts was at the gambling den property, he said.

At Waters’ request, Newman set bond at $200,000 on the charges with a condition of house arrest and GPS monitoring.

Roberts’ attorney, Mark Peper of Charleston, had urged a personal recognizance bond or a much smaller surety bond, telling the judge his client is a lifelong resident of Colleton County and has good family support.

Roberts has not yet been charged with any Murdaugh-related crimes

Murdaugh remains in the Richland County jail on a slew of financial-related charges and also weapons and murder charges in the June 2021 shooing deaths of his wife Maggie and son Paul. He has denied the murder charges.

In Smith’s case, Newman sent him to jail Thursday after hearing evidence from Waters that Smith had misrepresented his financial situation at a June bond hearing by telling Newman he had no money when in fact he had nearly $60,000 in a bank account. He also had broken conditions of his bond, Waters explained.

In June, when Smith was arrested, Newman let him go free on $250,000 bond on conditions he stayed on house arrest and only left home for certain limited purposes. But Waters told Newman that Smith had gone to stores and private homes that he was not supposed to.

Up to now, the Murdaugh saga has involved specific allegations of murder against Murdaugh and massive fraud. Murdaugh faces numerous charges of stealing more than $8.4 million from his former law firm’s partners, their clients and others.

But the drug allegations shared by Waters Thursday have given the sprawling criminal case a whole new dimension.