Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh pleads guilty to 22 federal financial fraud charges

Alex Murdaugh pleaded guilty to 22 counts of federal financial crimes on Thursday. File Photo by South Carolina Department of Corrections

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh entered guilty pleas to 22 financial fraud counts involving clients, his own law firm and others who trusted him over 10 years, totaling millions of dollars.

The guilty pleas entered in federal court in Charleston, S.C., was yet another blow to the once powerful attorney from a prominent legal family who is already serving two life sentences for the deaths of his wife and one of his sons.

Prosecutors said the financial fraud charges covered a 10-year period, but they actually found evidence that his financial crimes dated back to 2005.

"I am pleading guilty of my own free will because I am guilty ... and for other reasons," Murdaugh told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel. "I want to take responsibility for my actions. ... I want my son (Buster Murdaugh) to see that I am taking responsibility.

"It is my hope that by taking responsibility, that the people I have hurt will begin to heal."

In March, a South Carolina circuit court judge sentenced Murdaugh to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the fatal shooting deaths of his wife, Margaret, and adult son Paul in 2021 after a jury found him guilty of the charges.

He already was awaiting trial for nearly 100 counts of financial fraud-related charges at the time.

Murdaugh's lawyer Richard Harpootlian told reporters Murdaugh was cooperative and apologized to his financial victims.

"This is, we believe, the first step for him in putting this behind him," Harpootlian said. "He did not argue with a single fact. He did not argue with me to push back on any allegation."

In May, federal authorities charged Murdaugh with bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly redirecting settlement funds from his clients to personally enrich himself, according to the Justice Department.

He was accused of sending funds to his own accounts without his clients' approval, and also collected attorney's fees on fake or nonexistent annuities.