The chief financial officer of Alex Murdaugh’s law firm said the disgraced legal scion was gifted in the ‘art of bull****’ and able to manipulate people.
Jeanne Seckinger told jurors in his double-murder trial Tuesday she confronted Murdaugh, 54, over $792,000 in stolen fees on the day Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, were killed.
She said Murdaugh was attempting to ‘hide assets’ in Maggie’s account to shield money from the lawsuit he was facing over a fatal boat crash in which Paul was driving under the influence.
Seckinger, who has known Murdaugh since high school, said he was equipped with ‘the gift of the gab’ – making him a successful personal injury lawyer – but that he also deployed this skill to mastermind massive fraud against his firm.
‘I think Alec was a successful lawyer more from his ability to establish a relationship and to manipulate people into settlements,’ she told jurors. ‘He did it through the art of bull**** basically.’
Jeanne Seckinger told jurors she confronted Murdaugh, 54, on the day of Maggie and Paul’s murders over $792,000 in stolen fees. She said Murdaugh was attempting to ‘hide assets’ in Maggie’s account to shield money from the lawsuit he was facing over a fatal fatal boat crash in which Paul was driving under the influence
Murdaugh chewed on gum and took notes as Seckinger delivered her withering testimony about how he stole from the firm
Seckinger described how he would ‘use the emotions of his case and the emotion of his clients’ to secure higher settlements.
‘Things were manipulated and set up and I believe he did that with his clients as well,’ she told the court.
Seckinger told the court: ‘I don’t think I ever really knew [Murdaugh]. I don’t think anybody really did.’
The CFO described how, in addition to the $792,000, she would go on to uncover more than $2.8million that Murdaugh stole from his firm – which ultimately led to him being fired, three months after Maggie and Paul were killed.
It cost the law firm more than $5million to reimburse clients.
‘I took it personally. It haunts me that I let this, or that this happened. It was a deep betrayal of trust,’ Seckinger told the court.
The CFO said that while Murdaugh claimed he struggled to remember things, she believed he was simply pretending to be ‘chaotic’ in order to hide how he was embezzling millions from Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED).
‘I think he actually had a photographic memory to keep all the balls in the air that we now see,’ Seckinger said.
In May, 2021, she said Murdaugh got ‘sloppy’ and she noticed that payments that were meant for PMPED were going to an account set up with Forge Consulting.
Although Forge is a legitimate entity, Murdaugh was using the account fraudulently to siphon funds into his personal accounts.
‘He was getting money in Maggie’s name because of the boat case,’ she told jurors.
At the time of Paul’s death, Murdaugh and his son were defendants in a civil case over the boat wreck in which 19-year-old Mallory Beach was killed. Paul had used Buster’s ID to buy alcohol, and was driving his father’s boat drunk in February, 2019.
On June 7, 2021, the day of the killings, Seckinger said she confronted Murdaugh at the office in Hampton, South Carolina, over the $792,000 in missing fees.
‘He was leaning on a file cabinet outside his office,’ Seckinger told the court. ‘He looked at me and said “what do you want now?” and gave me a very dirty look, not a look I had ever got from him before.’
Seckinger said she told him they better step into his office and she proceeded to tell him how she had reason to believe he had received the funds owed to the law firm for the case.
Alex Murdaugh pictured with his wife Maggie and their two sons Paul (left) and Buster
At the time of Paul’s death, Murdaugh was facing a lawsuit over allowing his son to drive his boat under the influence of alcohol when 19-year-old Mallory (left and right) was killed in February 2019. Murdaugh told cops Paul and Maggie had been killed in revenge for the accident
The CFO explained that in their line of work all fees went directly to the legal firm – if not, ‘that would be stealing.’
Seckinger said that Murdaugh assured her that the money was there and that he could get it – he then went on to discuss his ailing father, the family patriarch Randolph III.
Later that day, prosecutors allege Murdaugh killed his wife and son.
As a result, Seckinger said the pursuit of the missing money was upended.
‘He was erratic, we knew he was taking pills, we were worried about his sanity, so we weren’t going to harass him about money when we knew that his family had been killed,’ she told jurors.
‘Nothing happened that week at work, everyone spent time with Alec trying to support him … we were concerned about Alec,’ Seckinger added.
However, Seckinger said that as time went by she and the partners discussed what they were going to do about the missing funds on their books.
In July, 2021, firm partner Lee Cope took over discussions about the missing $792,000 with the lawyer with whom Murdaugh had worked on the case.
The case, known as the Faris case (Faris vs. Mack Trucks), had involved Murdaugh’s longtime college friend and fellow attorney at another law firm Chris Wilson.
Wilson told PMPED he had the $792,000 in a trust account.
Seckinger said they were not satisfied by this because it was not the correct way for funds owed to the firm to dispersed.
Randy Murdaugh, Alex’s brother, is seen in court Tuesday. Seckinger said that after a meeting of the senior partners on September 3, 2021, Randy confronted Alex over the thefts to demand his resignation
Evidence is brought to witness Jeanne Seckinger for financial crimes during Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday
Then in September, 2021, a paralegal who went into Murdaugh’s office looking for files found a check on his desk for $225,000 made out directly to Murdaugh personally for ‘Faris fees.’
Seckinger said the paralegal brought this to her and then she printed a ledger of all payments by the firm to the fake Forge account from 2015 to 2021.
She said she ‘felt sick’ when she realized that all the checks were signed by Murdaugh. The total value of those stolen funds came out to more than $2.8million.
Seckinger immediately informed the partners and a meeting was called at Cope’s house on September 3.
The partners agreed that the documents proved Murdaugh had been stealing from the firm.
At that meeting, Seckinger testified, Randy Murdaugh, Alex’s brother, ‘hung his head and said, “He stole it, we’ve got to do something about this.”‘
Murdaugh was summoned to a private meeting with Randy and another attorney, Danny Henderson, to demand his resignation.
Murdaugh admitted the theft, and resigned on the spot, Seckinger testified.
Seckinger testified that all of the money had to be paid back – some of which remains an ongoing process for the firm – ‘because Alex stole it.’
She testified that in some of the cases, the client had never seen the money.
TIMELINE: NIGHT OF THE KILLINGS
Alex Murdaugh, 54, is accused of shooting his wife, Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, on the night of June 7, 2021.
Here are the key events in the timeline laid out by prosecutors:
At 7.56pm, Paul sent a Snapchat video to friends showing the 22-year-old riding around the estate with his father.
At 8.15pm, Murdaugh’s wife Maggie arrived home and the trio ate dinner together. Autopsies showed similar stomach contents in Maggie and Paul.
About 8.30pm, Paul’s phone starts moving towards the kennels.
Then at 8.44pm, a second video taken by Paul at the kennels – soon to become a murder scene – allegedly proves that Maggie, Paul and Alex were together.
At 8.49pm the prosecution say Paul’s phone locked and went silent forever, never to send another text or make another call.
Between 9pm and 9.30pm, Paul and Maggie were killed – according to the coroner.
At 9.06pm, Murdaugh’s car is fired up.
The alleged killer said he went to go visit his mother, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in Almeda – around a 15-minute drive.
At 10.07pm, Murdaugh called 911 claiming he had arrived home a to find his wife and son shot dead.
- Law schools are offering undergrad degrees in emerging legal education trend
- Santa Clara University law student defying COVID vaccine order sues
- Vermont Law School to rebrand, add master's degree programs
- UAPB alumnae end law school
- 2 law enforcement officers shot during a July Fourth festival in Philadelphia