Former attorney Corey Fleming was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges that he conspired with his longtime friend Alex Murdaugh to steal millions of dollars from trusting clients.
Fleming previously pleaded guilty to the financial fraud charges that stem from Murdaugh’s alleged scheme to steal money from the estate of his dead housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. Satterfield died in a fall on the Murdaugh property in 2018.
He was also involved in stealing money from the family of Hakeem Pinckney – a man whose family Murdaugh represented after he was killed in a car crash in 2009.
While Fleming knew Murdaugh was asking him to do wrong, he previously said he didn’t realise the depth of his old friend’s depravity.
The sentencing was handed down on the same day Fleming’s longtime friend Murdaugh appeared in court for his own hearing on financial fraud charges for the first time since he was sentenced to life in prison in the murders of of his wife Maggie and son Paul. Judge Clifton Newman set a trial date for 27 November.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Newman told the court that leniency and mercy are not his responsibility and noted Fleming faced a total of 195 years in prison. He then called Fleming to the bench where he imposed the sentence.
“My heart bleeds for you because I have no doubt of the quality of human being you are … but you must suffer the consequences of your actions,” he said.
For the Satterfield case, Fleming was sentenced to five years for insurance fraud, 10 years for breach of trust, 10 years for money laundering, five years for breach of trust, five years money laundering, five years for the computer crime.
They will run concurrently for a total of 10 years.
For the Pinckney case: 10 years, consecutive to the federal sentence he’s currently serving (3 years, 10 months), concurrent to other sentences.
There will be a restitution hearing at a later date.
On 15 August, Fleming pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges and was sentenced to nearly four years (46 months) in federal prison. He is housed at the Charleston County jail awaiting a prison assignment.
On 23 August, he pleaded guilty to all state charges. Judge Newman scheduled Fleming’s sentencing for today in Beaufort so that the court could hear from friends and family members, as well as victims.
At the hearing on Thursday, prosecutor Creighton Waters urged the judge to not be fooled by Fleming’s claims that he was “recruited” by Murdaugh into stealing from the families of Satterfield and Pinckney.
Mr Waters argued that Fleming, who was an attorney at the time, was hired to represent the families but then “behind the scenes colluded with the defendant”.
“What Mr Fleming wants the court to believe is… that he was tricked and fooled by Mr Murdaugh like everyone else,” Mr Waters said.
The prosecutor then pointed to the fake Forge scheme in which Murdaugh allegedly set up a firm called Forge – a fake company with the name of a real one, which was used to siphon off money from clients.
Murduagh and Fleming are accused of securing payouts from insurance companies in Satterfield’s case and then sending nearly $4m in stolen money to the fake company.
“It was a shakedown, plain and simple,” Mr Waters said of Fleming and Murdaugh’s treatment of the Satterfield family.
South Carolina lawmaker smiles and shakes hands with Alex Murdaugh in court
At the hearing on Thursday, several people addressed the court on behalf of the victims.
Tony Satterfield, the son of Gloria Satterfield, told the court, “I still forgive Mr Fleming.”
Satterfield’s sister also addressed the court and said that the family forgives Fleming.
“Gloria did not die in vain as her case brought out other corruption and dishonest misdeeds being done to others,” she said, adding that it brought corruption “to light”.
Attorney Eric Bland, who represents the Satterfield family, spoke at the hearing and said the law profession is “stained” by Fleming’s crimes. Fleming surrendered his license to practice law in both Georgia and South Carolina, saying he dishonored the profession.
“The profession we love has been stained,” he said. “Mr Fleming knew exactly what he was doing. He is a plaintiff lawyer… it is impossible.”
He said the debacle involving Murdaugh, Fleming and Laffitte, has “stained our state.”
Mr Bland said the judge and court will hear how Fleming is a good guy, but that “good guys can still do criminal things.”
“I’ve been suing other lawyers for 30 years. Never seen a case where the lawyers took every single dollar. But that’s what Fleming and Murdaugh did. Every single dollar.”
Mr Bland also went over several examples of violations and irregularities in how Fleming handled and filed the Satterfield case to show the depth of the conspiracy and the criminal behaviour.
He says Fleming and Murdaugh sat on the $4.3m settlements knowing that Gloria Satterfield’s son Brian, a vulnerable adult, was being put out on the street because his mom’s trailer was being foreclosed on.
Mr Bland called it “blatant thievery”.
Fleming is the second Murdaugh associate ordered to prison since investigators began scrutinising every aspect of Murdaugh’s life in June 2021 after his wife and son were shot to death at their South Carolina home.
Russell Laffitte, who was convicted of federal charges in November, appeared for a status conference on Thursday in his state case.
One of his attorneys, South Carolina State Rep Todd Rutherford, asked the judge to delay a trial until the fall of 2024. Judge Newman said that he would make a ruling at a later date.
Last month, Laffitte was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to helping Murdaugh steal money from settlements for clients after vehicle wrecks or work injuries. Laffitte is appealing his conviction and sentence.