Lawyers for Alex Murdaugh’s deceased housekeeper have filed a lawsuit against Bank of America, alleging the bank allowed Murdaugh to set up and use a bank account to launder millions in stolen money.
Murdaugh, 53, whose law license was suspended in September and who has since been charged with numerous financial crimes, set up a bank account using the name of “Forge” to deposit ill-gotten gains, the lawsuit said. “Forge” is the name of a well-known financial consulting firm.
“Bank of America aided and abetted Murdaugh’s financial crimes and money laundering,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit against Bank of America was filed in Hampton County, South Carolina, state court on Monday, said Eric Bland, the attorney who with Ronnie Richter represents the heirs to Gloria Satterfield’s $4.3 million estate.
Bank of America officials pushed back Monday and in a statement said the allegations will not hold up in court.
“There is no basis for this lawsuit and we are asking the court to dismiss it,” said Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin.
“Make no mistake, the wrongdoer here was Mr. Murdaugh, and the diversion of these funds occurred away from Bank of America,” Halldin said. “We had no knowledge of any theft and followed standard procedures in account openings for a sole proprietor business.”
Bland and Richter had been negotiating with Bank of America to settle the case without a lawsuit being filed. Negotiations have not worked out, and this lawsuit is the result.
In earlier legal claims, Bland and Richter have mentioned Bank of America as the bank used by Murdaugh, but Monday’s legal action was the first time the bank has been named as a defendant and as an accomplice in Murdaugh’s alleged money-making schemes.
“By flexing their own rules and ignoring banking customs, Bank of America helped Murdaugh establish his fake Forge accounts, which Murdaugh funded with stolen money. ... Once he was in possession of his ill-gotten gain, Murdaugh engaged in other suspicious banking conduct (that) Bank of America should have identified,” the lawsuit said.
“In addition, Murdaugh transferred huge sums of stolen money from his fake Forge accounts to a personal checking account which Murdaugh also established at BOA. From one such account, Murdaugh separately issued 254 personal checks to ‘Cousin’ Eddie (Smith) totaling $1,825,560.95,” the lawsuit said.
“Murdaugh did not act alone. Bank of America is the bank of a money launderer. Bank of America is a bank of fraud. They are nothing more than a high-tech laundromat,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the Murdaughs are and were “the pre-eminent legal family in the (Hampton County) area” and Satterield was the family housekeeper for 20-plus years. She was told she was “an extension of the Murdaugh family.”
Satterfield died of injuries received in a fall at the Murdaugh house, and insurance proceeds of $4.3 million from her death — which should have gone to her two sons — were instead stolen by Murdaugh, the lawsuit said.
Bank of America should have detected Murdaugh’s scheme and closed the bank accounts he was using, the lawsuit said. Murdaugh operated “two fake Forge accounts” as well as his personal account at Bank of America, the lawsuit said.
Bank of America failed to require proper account-opening documents for the Murdaugh accounts, allowed withdrawals to evade currency transaction reporting requirements, allowed fraudulent deposits and allowed numerous cashiers’ checks to issue from Murdaugh’s fake Forge accounts, the lawsuit said.
“The conduct of BOA impacts the public interest in that the integrity of the banking system is central and integral to consumer confidence and to the health of the United State economy itself,” said the lawsuit, which asked for at least $4.3 million in damages.
Bland has said the heirs are already in line to collect a total more than $6 million from others involved in Murdaugh’s theft of Satterfield’s money. Those potential defendants chose to settle the Satterfield heirs’ legal claims rather than be sued, Bland said.
The lawsuit also contained an affidavit by Michael Virzi, an ethics professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, in which he said that Murdaugh engaged in a pattern of conduct with others to siphon money away from Satterfield’s rightful heirs.