Alex Murdaugh’s former law firm has reached a secret settlement with the family of the housekeeper who mysteriously died at his hunting lodge, after it was revealed that the disgraced lawyer used the firm’s stationery and other resources to siphon $4.3 million from the dead woman’s estate.
‘Over the weekend, the Satterfields and the law firm reconciled their differences,’ said Columbia attorney Eric Bland, who represents the family of Gloria Satterfield, the housekeeper who died mysteriously in 2018 after a ‘fall’ at the Murdaugh family’s home in South Carolina.
Murdaugh, who resigned from the firm of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick about two months ago after allegedly stealing from them, used the firm’s stationary and resources in a plan to steal $4.3 million that was owed to Satterfield’s sons as a settlement in her death, Band told The State.
He worked at the law firm at the time, but has since been dismissed over millions in missing cash. There is no suggestion anyone else at the firm was privy to his alleged deception.
Bland declined to reveal how much money PMPED would be paying Satterfield’s sons, Michael ‘Tony’ Satterfield and Brian Harriott.
The former law firm of disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh (right) has reached a secret settlement with the family of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield (left), who died of a ‘fall’ in his home in 2018
Murdaugh used the firm’s stationary in a plot to siphon $4.3 million from Satterfield’s estate that was supposed to go to her two sons
Murdaugh planned the scheme with his two friends, attorney Cory Fleming and banker Chad Westendorf, it is claimed.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which is also investigating Satterfield’s death, has charged Murdaugh with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses in the Satterfield case.
According to prosecutors who reviewed his bank records, Murdaugh had already funneled $3.3 million of the settlement into a fake bank account named after an Atlanta-based financial firm calledForge. He allegedly used the funds in the months after to pay off a $100,000 credit card bill, write his father a $300,000 check and write two checks totaling $753,000 to himself.
The remainder of the settlement was taken up by fees, with Satterfield’s sons unaware that any agreements had been reached, or that it had gone into Murdaugh’s accounts.
‘He absolutely used his position, his prestige, his reputation as a lawyer to steal from this family,’ Prosecutor Creighton Waters, of the South Carolina Attorney General’s office, said at Murdaugh’s bond hearing in Columbia on Oct. 19.
Murdaugh’s defense lawyer, South Carolina Senator Dick Harpootlian, pointed fingers at attorney Fleming and banker Westendorf, both of whom have not had any criminal charges brought against them.
‘Mr. Murdaugh was not a lawyer in the Satterfield matter. He was the defendant. He had no authority over any money whatsoever. [Fleming and Westendorf] were responsible for making sure Mr. Murdaugh could not — if he in fact did — purloin that money,’ Harpootlian said.
Fleming and Westendorf were both removed from the Satterfield lawsuit after agreeing to repay all the money they owed. Fleming and his law firm, Moss, Kuhn & Fleming, did not reveal a specific amount, but said in an October 6 statement that they would repay all legal fees and funds he received from the Satterfield settlement.
All of the wrongful death claims were handled by lawyers and bankers who are friends with Murdaugh, and who were recommended to the sons by Murdaugh. Above left, Cory Fleming, the attorney who brokered the deal. He has had his license suspended. Banker Chad Westendorf, right, served as the personal representative
Satterfield, 57, died after tripping over the Murdaugh family’s dog at the family’s hunting lodge (pictured) in South Carolina in February 2018. To this day, Satterfield’s sons say they still don’t know how the fall caused her such horrific injuries that she died
The firm’s malpractice insurance carrier is paying the full limits of its policy. Fleming and his law firm also paid the family an additional $113,000 in funds that were left over in his escrow account and never distributed from the $4.3 million, according to Bland.
An order in the case from May 13, 2019, said that $1.4 million from the Satterfield estate was to be distributed as attorneys’ fees, but it is not known if all of that money went to, or was retained by, Fleming, according to The State.
Westendorf, of Palmetto State Bank in Hampton, repaid the $30,000 that he received as personal representative for the Satterfield’s in the case, which was originally an over-payment.
Bland said his firm believes this was Westendorf’s first time serving as a personal representative, adding that he only attended two hearings, did not ensure the money was going to its intended destination and did not speak with the sons he was supposed to represent.
The Satterfield sons are still planning to see if Bank of America followed all regulations when Murdaugh opened the fake account there, Bland told The State. They are also pursuing Palmetto State Bank as a possible defendant, though the company said in recent court filings that Westendorf acted on his own accord.
If the court involves the bank, it is asking for damages from Fleming and Murdaugh. ‘Chad Westendorf was an exemplary person of integrity who has helped and served others and …. at that time there was no reason to suspect or know of Murdaugh’s scheme to defraud and steal, which only came to light in September 2021,’ the filing states.
Bland said that all the players involved should have stopped the scheme before it got out of hand and called it the ‘perfect storm of crooks in Alex Murdaugh.’
Cory Fleming, who was ‘willfully blind … or he was complicit with Alex Murdaugh — those are his only options … [PMPED] that said they represented Gloria Satterfield but did not keep up with the matter. And Chad Westendorf and [Palmetto State Bank]. They were like mummies. They didn’t do anything.’
To this day, Satterfield’s sons say they still don’t know how the fall caused her such horrific injuries that she died. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is still investigating her death in light of a slew of other allegations against Murdaugh.
In an interview last Tuesday, after Murdaugh was denied bond, the sons’ attorney Ronnie Richter cast doubt on the claim that Gloria died by falling down the stairs in the family’s home.
Paul and Maggie Murdaugh (together left) were shot dead on June 7
Murdaugh is in jail for stealing more than $3 million in payouts from insurance companies that were intended for them. He is pictured above at his bond hearing at the Hampton County Jail in September, where he faced charges of insurance fraud and filing a false police report
Murdaugh resigned about two months ago at the request of his firm after millions of dollars were found to have gone missing from its coffers
‘Death was first classified a natural death… there is nothing natural about a 57-year old-woman falling down a flight of steps and dying from a head trauma,’ he told CBS in South Carolina.
After Gloria’s death, Murdaugh promised to ‘take care of’ the boys financially.
The two sons, in a lawsuit filed last month, tell how they trusted Murdaugh as a respected South Carolina attorney whose family had been in law offices across the state for more than 100 years.
‘Prior to her untimely death on February 26, 2018, Gloria had worked for Alex Murdaugh and his family as a housekeeper and nanny for over two decades.
‘Gloria was told she was part of the Murdaugh family, and she believed it to be true. The Murdaughs are prominent and wealthy family based in Hampton County that for generations controlled the prosecutor’s office in Hampton County and were the prominent legal family in the area,’ the sons’ lawyer said in their suit.
This was before the still-unsolved murders of Murdaugh’s wife Maggie and son Paul, before Murdaugh admitted to having an ‘opioid addiction’, before he stole money from his own law firm and unsuccessfully tried to have himself killed in a suicide-by-hitman plot to benefit his remaining son Buster.
Murdaugh’s son Paul was also entangled in controversy surrounding multiple deaths before he was killed with his mother in June. In 2015, Stephen Smith was found dead on the side of the road. Police officially rule his death a hit-and-run but he had suffered blunt force trauma to the head.
His mother has since shared her belief that she thinks he was killed in a hate-crime because he was gay and case notes obtained by DailyMail.com revealed Paul’s older brother Buster was named multiple times in the investigation.
Another death was Mallory Beach, who was one of six teenagers on board Alex Murdaugh’s boat in 2019 when a ‘highly drunk’ Paul Murdaugh crashed the boat, resulting in her death.
Paul, 22, was ultimately charged as the driver of the boat and was awaiting trial on three felony counts relating to the crash when he was killed with his mother.
‘Soon after’ Sttaerfield’s funeral, Murdaugh introduced the sons to attorney Cory Fleming and encouraged them to hire him.
‘Tony and Brian trusted Alex Murdaugh and because of their trust in him, Tony and Brian retained Fleming and MKF to represent them,’ the lawsuit states.
Neither son was aware that Fleming was Murdaugh’s college roommate and ‘best friend’.
Fleming then appointed a banker, Chad Westendorf, to act as a representative on behalf of the sons.
They didn’t know him and were also unaware that they could have acted as their own representatives, they said.