A former South Carolina attorney was sentenced to 46 months in prison on Tuesday after admitting to helping his best friend Alex Murdaugh steal millions from the family of the scion’s late housekeeper.
Cory Fleming, 54, pleaded guilty in May to federal conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in the scheme to defraud Gloria Satterfield’s family from a wrongful death lawsuit settlement. Prosecutors said that Fleming helped Murdaugh, his former law school roommate, divert upwards of $4.3 million in insurance money meant for Satterfield’s sons after her 2018 death.
Eric Bland, who represents the Satterfield family, told The Daily Beast that Fleming’s Tuesday sentencing was “contentious” and that things “got tense” with District Judge Richard Gergel.
Gergel “was mad that I was going through all of Cory Fleming’s misdeeds that led up to this point,” Bland explained via text message, adding that he believed Fleming’s sentence was “very strong.”
After the hearing, Fleming was reportedly taken into custody by U.S. Marshals. In addition to the sentence, he was ordered to pay $102,000 in restitution and a $20,000 fine. He will also serve three years of probation when he gets out.
Fleming is the second Murdaugh associate to be hit with jail time for aiding the disgraced lawyer in a financial crime. Earlier this month, former banker Russell Laffitte was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for aiding Murdaugh in his decades-long fraud to steal millions from his clients and law firm.
Murdaugh, who is already serving two life sentences for fatally shooting his wife and son in June 2021, also faces more than 100 federal and state charges for a variety of schemes, including a financial scheme a judge once called “one of the greatest scandals in modern South Carolina history.”
But unlike Laffitte, Fleming was not expected to receive a stiff prison sentence. Fleming agreed to plead guilty before he was formally charged and accepted responsibility in the Satterfield scheme.
Prosecutors said that, after Satterfield died after a fall at Murdaugh’s home, Murdaugh hatched a plan to financially gain from her death. He allegedly urged Satterfield’s two sons to hire Fleming to file a claim against him to collect his homeowner’s insurance policy. Then, Murdaugh allegedly pushed his insurers to settle for a multi-million-dollar figure.
But Satterfield’s sons never saw a dime. During Murdaugh’s February murder trial, Tony Satterfield told the court that his family only learned about the payout after the 2021 double homicide. (Murdaugh has since agreed to pay the Satterfields’ $4.3 million and issued an apology for the scheme.)
Fleming has since admitted that he knew Murdaugh was going to steal from the wrongful death settlement, but believed his friend was merely going to skim about $100,000 in attorney’s fees. Prosecutors also conceded that they do not believe Fleming knew the extent of Murdaugh’s scheme, though they do accuse him of filing fake paperwork to speed up the settlement approval and overstating his expenses.
Tuesday’s sentencing is not the end of the legal road for Fleming, who still faces 23 state charges and is scheduled to go to trial in September. The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office has maintained its plans to continue with Fleming’s case, which includes 18 charges related to the Satterfield settlement, even though he will avoid state prison.