Disgraced ex-lawyer Alex Murdaugh sentenced to 40 years for financial crimes

Alex Murdaugh sits during an evidentiary hearing at the Richland County Courthouse in South Carolina on Jan.16, 2024. Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son in 2023 after a six-week trial
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Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced lawyer convicted of murdering his wife and son, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for federal financial crimes.

Murdaugh, 55, is already serving two life sentences for the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.

He is also serving 27 years for nearly two dozen state financial charges relating to fraud and money laundering.

Murdaugh admitted to stealing millions from client settlements, saying the money was used to fund a drug habit.

This latest sentence will be served at the same time as his state prison term, also for financial crimes. Murdaugh must also pay more than $8m (£6.3m) in restitution to his victims.

Federal prosecutors had recommended a sentence between 17 and a half and nearly 22 years for Murdaugh, scion of a South Carolina legal dynasty.

But US District Judge Richard Gergel issued a harsher sentence, saying in federal court on Monday that Murdaugh stole from "the most needy, vulnerable people", including a client who became a quadriplegic after a crash.

"They placed all their problems and all their hopes on Mr Murdaugh and it is from those people he abused and stole. It is a difficult set of actions to understand," Judge Gergel said.

Murdaugh on Monday told the court he was filled with "sorrow and guilt" for his crimes.

"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," he said.

The stakes for Monday's hearing - what might have been a routine proceeding - had risen in recent days after a dispute over a polygraph.

Prosecutors argued their plea deal with Murdaugh should be revoked after an October 2023 polygraph found him to be dishonest about where more than $6m he stole had ended up, and whether another lawyer had helped him steal.

In addition, prosecutors said they had found 11 new financial victims and another $1.3m in stolen cash.

"The FBI examiner determined that all of Murdaugh's responses during the polygraph examination indicated deception," the filing said.

Murdaugh's defence lawyers countered with their own claim, saying the examiner had asked strange questions, altering the results.

According to the filing, the FBI agent asked Murdaugh before the exam began if he could keep a secret, and then told him he had interviewed Joran van der Sloot, the Dutch man who suspected of killing American woman Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005.

The examiner also told Murdaugh he did not think the lawyer had murdered his wife and son.

Murdaugh has admitted to stealing millions from clients and his law firm, saying he used the millions to fund an all-consuming drug addiction. But he has maintained his innocence in the killings of his family and is appealing his murder conviction.

These financial crime convictions all but ensure he will remain behind bars regardless of how his appeal proceeds.