Alex Murdaugh Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Fraud: What to Know and Watch About the Infamous Family

The disgraced former lawyer was found guilty of murdering his wife and son in January 2023.

The legal drama surrounding the Murdaugh family continued on Monday, as disgraced patriarch and former attorney Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for charges of financial fraud.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who handed down the sentence, announced that Murdaugh would be allowed to serve his federal sentence concurrently with his 27-year sentence for similar crimes from the state of South Carolina. However, that will likely be a moot point as the former attorney is already serving two life sentences after being found guilty of killing his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, in June 2021.

Murdaugh testified that an addiction to opioids influenced his financial crimes, which included creating fraudulent bank accounts and cheating clients out of settlement funds.

"I do believe that my addiction contributed to me doing some of the things that I did," Murdaugh said, according to NBC News. "And Judge Gergel, I hope with every cell of my existence, I hope that I will not have done what I did had I not been addicted to opioids."

This is the latest development in a long and complex story, as the Murdaughs have been at the center of a seemingly never-ending scandal for nearly a decade, which began to unravel the power they had over the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and expose the corruption in the legal system.

Following the unsolved 2015 hit-and-run of gay teen Stephen Smith and the 2019 boat accident that resulted in the drowning of Paul Murdaugh's high school friend, Mallory Beach, as well as the unexpected 2018 death of the family's longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, Alex Murdaugh was accused of killing his wife, Maggie, and their youngest son, Paul, in 2021. 


As he was standing trial for the murders of his two family members, Murdaugh was also accused of a number of other alleged crimes, with the disgraced patriarch facing charges in a murder-for-hire suicide scheme as well as accusations of embezzlement and fraud. In total, the state brought 99 charges against Murdaugh, alleging he defrauded many of his legal clients out of millions of dollars.

While Murdaugh denied responsibility for the killings as well as the other charges lobbied against him during his murder trial, he did admit to lying when he was on the stand. "I didn't shoot my wife or my son any time -- ever," he said, while the New York Times reported that he blamed paranoia fueled by his painkiller addiction for not disclosing the truth of his whereabouts the night of Maggie and Paul's deaths. "Once I told a lie -- then I told my family -- I had to keep lying."

However, when both sides had rested, the jury deliberated for just under three hours before returning a guilty verdict. After Murdaugh was sent to prison for life, Brian Buckmire, a felony trial attorney and Law&Crime host, reacted to the disgraced attorney's sentence.

"The judge could have been very soft-handed and said, 'We'll give you 30 years, run concurrently'... and he could get out in 30 years. He'd still be in his mid-eighties, but there's a potential there," Buckmire said. "But that's not what Judge [Clifton] Newman did. Judge Newman sent a message and sentenced him to two life sentences to run consecutively. That is a firm message about how the judge felt about these crimes, and how disgusting and how malicious he perceived them to be."

Alex Murdaugh stands with his defense team during an evidentiary hearing at the Richland County Courthouse in South Carolina on Jan.16, 2024. - Tracy Glantz/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

As for why this case riveted the nation, Buckmire said, "Probably most people have never seen a case where someone's charged with the murder of their wife and son with, as the prosecution put it, a motive to clear up financial crimes of 19 indictments and 99 charges, where you can do centuries in jail."

"[There was] mystery, no smoking gun, strong circumstantial evidence, of all of this chaos," he added. "All this chaos in the background just kept people glued to the screen, and it was just so entertaining. You just wanted to know what happened for this man, this prominent attorney, to fall from grace, and have so much death and chaos around him."

In the years since the Murdaughs have been a national news sensation, two docuseries have detailed the deaths and other alleged crimes committed by Murdaugh and his family. Here's what to watch to learn more about what's going on in the Lowcountry: 

Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty 

First debuting in November 2022, the three-part HBO Max documentary explores "the legacy of the Murdaugh family, whose decades of powerful influence over the legal system in the South Carolina lowcountry unravel amid accusations of fraud, deception, and murder."

Through interviews with friends of the Murdaughs, the surviving family members of Stephen and Mallory as well as legal authorities that investigated those accidents, the docuseries recounts how Paul's involvement in the boating incident "thrust a level of scrutiny on the family’s actions and legacy, revealing a bizarre and deadly chain of events." As a result, their unchecked power of privilege has been called into question ever since. 
"This case has captivated the country for over a year, and it would be quite an understatement to say, 'There’s much more to the story.' In this series, we were able to offer new perspectives, new details and much-needed context to these infamous, both alleged and proven, accidents and crimes," executive producer Ross Dinerstein said of the series. 

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal

First released in February 2023, in the midst of Murdaugh's trial, the Netflix docuseries features "first-hand accounts from those on the boat that fateful night, many of whom have not spoken about the crash or double homicide of Maggie and Paul until now, including: Paul Murdaugh’s longtime girlfriend, Morgan Doughty; Mallory Beach's childhood friends, Miley Altman and Connor Cook; Mallory's boyfriend, Anthony Cook," and others.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason said they uncovered even more alleged crimes associated with the family that stretches "to the state and the federal level." According to the magazine, "they uncovered previously unreported skeletons in Alex’s closet -- so many that they were unable to fit them all into their three-episode framework." 

"There are additional crimes that have occurred that we have the scoop on -- corruption that goes far wider than Hampton, South Carolina," Furst alleged.

Season 2 of the series was released in September 2023, documenting the trial and Mudaugh's ultimate guilty verdict -- including details about the bombshell Snapchat video that many of the jurors say convinced them to vote for the former lawyer's guilt.