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Alex Murdaugh receives 40 years in federal prison for taking money from clients and his law firm

In what might be his final appearance, Alex Murdaugh, dressed in a prison jumpsuit rather than the customary suit, was led into a South Carolina courtroom on Monday and sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Alex Murdaugh, dressed in a prison jumpsuit instead of his usual suit, entered a courtroom in South Carolina on Monday and was given a 40-year federal prison sentence.

Murdaugh was punished in federal court for stealing from clients and his law firm. The 55-year-old lawyer, who has been stripped of his license, is currently serving a life sentence without parole in a state prison for the murder of his wife and son.

A report by federal agents suggested a prison term of 17½ to just under 22 years.

The 40-year sentence is in addition to the life sentence. Along with the life sentence, Murdaugh pleaded guilty and was ordered to spend 27 years in a state prison for financial crimes. The federal sentence will be served concurrently with the state prison term, and if his murder convictions are overturned, he will likely have to serve the full 40 years.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel stated that he gave Murdaugh a harsher punishment because Murdaugh stole from people in great need, such as a client who became quadriplegic after an accident, a state trooper injured on duty, and a trust fund for children whose parents died in a crash.

Gergel said, “They placed all their problems and all their hopes on Mr. Murdaugh, and it is those people he betrayed and stole from. It is a difficult set of actions to comprehend.”

The 22 federal counts are the last charges against Murdaugh, who used to be an established lawyer negotiating multimillion-dollar settlements in small Hampton County. Members of his family had been elected prosecutors and ran the area’s top law firm for almost a century.

Murdaugh is also required to pay nearly $9 million in restitution.

Prosecutors are seeking a tougher sentence for Murdaugh because FBI agents believe he is not telling the complete truth about the $6 million he stole and whether an unnamed attorney assisted in his criminal activities.

Murdaugh’s biggest scheme involved the sons of his long-serving housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died in a fall at the family home. Murdaugh pledged to support Satterfield’s family, then collaborated with a lawyer friend who admitted to a scheme to steal $4 million in a wrongful death settlement with the family’s insurer.

In total, Murdaugh took settlement funds from or overcharged fees or expenses for over two dozen clients. Prosecutors stated that the FBI uncovered 11 more victims than the state investigation revealed and that Murdaugh took nearly $1.3 million from them.

At his sentencing on Monday, Murdaugh once again apologized to his victims, expressing feelings of guilt, sorrow, shame, embarrassment, and humiliation.

Similar to his state sentencing, Murdaugh offered to meet with his victims so they could express their thoughts and “more closely assess my sincerity.”

“There’s not enough time and I don’t possess a sufficient vocabulary to adequately portray to you in words the magnitude of how I feel about the things I did,” stated Murdaugh.

Murdaugh claimed that his addiction to opioids for almost 20 years led to his crimes, and he expressed pride in being clean for 937 days.

Gergel dismissed his drug-blaming statement.

The judge stated that a truly impaired person wouldn't be able to carry out the complex transactions involving fake accounts, manipulated checks, and money transfers used to conceal the thefts over nearly 20 years.

Murdaugh was found guilty a year ago of using a shotgun to kill his younger son Paul and a rifle to kill his wife, Maggie. Although he has admitted to numerous financial crimes, he vehemently denies the murders and provided testimony in his defense. The murder cases are expected to undergo years of appeals.

The case has captured the attention of true crime enthusiasts, leading to the creation of numerous podcast episodes and thousands of social media posts. The lead-up to Monday's sentencing hearing saw further unexpected developments.

Murdaugh's lawyers claimed that an FBI agent, who administered a polygraph test, asked Murdaugh if he could keep a secret, and then revealed that he had recently examined the infamous Dutch killer Joran van der Sloot.

Prosecutors argue that Murdaugh failed the polygraph test. He pleaded guilty to 22 counts in federal court, each carrying a minimum 20-year prison sentence and some carrying a maximum 30-year sentence.

The defense attributed Murdaugh's failure in the test to the alleged peculiar behavior and unusual questions from an FBI agent.

Prosecutors aim to keep many of the FBI statements confidential, as they are still investigating the missing money and potential accomplices in the theft. They argue that making the information public would endanger an ongoing grand jury investigation.

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