Judge Compares Alex Murdaugh to Madoff, Slams Him With 40 Years

Tracy Glantz/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Tracy Glantz/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced former South Carolina attorney who murdered his wife and son, was sentenced to another 40 years in prison on Monday for bilking millions from his clients and former law firm.

But before handing down the federal prison sentence, District Court Judge Richard Gergel unleashed a searing rebuke of Murdaugh for “methodical” and “devastating” crimes reminiscent of those carried out by notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.

“This sentence must speak the truth and the truth here is this is a reprehensible crime,” Gergel said, the State reported.

The sentencing is the latest chapter in a serpentine saga centered on a family of prominent lawyers that encompassed drugs, suicide-by-hire, massive embezzlement, and a sensational trial.

“I am filled with sorry and I am filled with guilt over the things that I did to these people that I care about,” Murdaugh said in the Charleston courtroom on Monday. “And I also spent a lot of time trying to think about how in the world I might ever make up for the things that I have done.”

Murdaugh, 55, is serving two life sentences in state prison for the June 2021 double murder—and was sentenced in November to 27 years in prison after pleading guilty to state fraud charges. (He is appealing the murder conviction.)

He pleaded guilty last September to federal charges, including money laundering and bank fraud, for stealing $11 million in personal injury settlement funds since 2005. As part of his deal, Murdaugh agreed to tell investigators about his other criminal activities, submit to a polygraph exam, and forfeit his assets to pay back his victims.

Disgraced Clerk Accused of Tampering With Murdaugh Jury Resigns

Federal prosecutors allege Murdaugh violated his agreement because he failed an October 2023 test “on issues related to hidden assets and the involvement of another attorney in Murdaugh’s criminal conduct,” a motion filed last week says.

Now prosecutors want to rescind their previous agreement to recommend Murdaugh’s federal sentence run concurrently with the state sentence. They asked to allow them to recommend a consecutive sentence of 17.5 to 22 years in prison.

Defense lawyers asked Gergel to adhere to the original plea agreement or delay his ruling until they see the polygraphs. In a sentencing memo last week, they claimed the polygraph examiner engaged in “odd conduct” to allegedly manipulate the results, including sharing his belief that Murdaugh is innocent of murder. The examiner also allegedly confided in Murdaugh that he had recently performed a polygraph on Joran van der Sloot, who confessed last year to the 2005 Aruba slaying of Natalee Holloway.

“There are legitimate questions as to whether the Government intentionally manipulated the results to void the plea agreement and achieve the prosecutors’ stated desire to ‘ensure that he’s never a free man again,’” the defense memo says.

Gergel, however, ruled that Murdaugh's federal sentence would run concurrently with state charges. He also ordered Murdaugh to pay over $8 million in restitution.

The federal complaint says Murdaugh used three schemes to steal from more than 20 clients for over a decade: directing the settlement funds into his bank accounts; conspiring with a former bank teller to divert funds; and creating a bank account with a similar name as a legitimate insurance company to hide his fraud.

Murdaugh then used the money to pay off his loans, take out cash, and pay for his luxurious lifestyle in the Lowcountry. At his murder trial, Murdaugh admitted he took the money amid his decades-long battle with an opioid addiction.

“I misled them. I did them wrong, and I stole their money,” he said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.