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Former chief of staff to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan dead after FBI search

By Ben Marquis
|
April 6, 2023

A federal manhunt was launched in March for Roy C. McGrath, the former chief-of-staff to former Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who became a wanted fugitive when he failed to appear in court for the start of a trial on federal fraud charges.

That search ended Monday night near Knoxville, Tennessee when McGrath was found and then killed in a confrontation with FBI agents, The Hill reported.

It is unclear what precipitated the gunfire and whether McGrath was fatally shot by federal agents or took his own life, and the incident is reportedly under review by the FBI.

Faced litany of federal and state charges

The Justice Department announced in June 2022 that a superseding indictment had been issued to replace an initial 2021 indictment against McGrath and included charges of wire fraud, theft of federal funds, and falsification of records, among other things.

Prior to being named as Gov. Hogan's top aide in mid-2020, a post he held for less than three months, McGrath had served as the executive director of the federally and state-funded Maryland Environmental Service, an agency he allegedly defrauded over several years to "personally enrich himself" and cover various personal expenses.

The most scandalous allegation, though, which led to his resignation in August 2020, was that McGrath had fraudulently devised a "severance" payment from MES that roughly equated to a year's salary when he left that agency to join the governor's office, which included falsified documents to both make it appear as though Hogan had approved the nearly quarter-million dollar payment as well as to try and cover his tracks.

In addition to the serious federal charges, McGrath also faced a slew of state-level charges in Maryland, including official misconduct, misappropriation of funds, felony theft, and violation of the state's Wiretap Statute by allegedly secretly recording other officials, including Gov. Hogan, among other things.

Found and shot dead in Tennessee

After being indicted, McGrath moved to Florida but was expected to return to Baltimore for the start of his federal trial on March 13. When he failed to appear on that day, a bench warrant was issued by the judge and the federal manhunt was subsequently launched by U.S. Marshals and the FBI, which included a $20,000 reward for information that led to his arrest, according to The Baltimore Banner.

It is not known how federal agents discovered that McGrath was in the Knoxville, Tennessee area, but he was reportedly confronted by agents and local law enforcement while in his SUV at an intersection near a shopping center in Farragut around 6:30 pm Monday.

According to a second-hand account from an unnamed witness to the incident, law enforcement had ordered the surrounded McGrath to exit the vehicle with his hands up but then opened fire on him when he instead appeared to reach for something inside the vehicle.

Attorney says client's death an "absolute tragedy"

The Banner noted that McGrath's death was confirmed by William Brennan, an attorney for McGrath's wife Laura Bruner, who was described as being "absolutely distraught" by the news.

It was further confirmed by an FBI spokesperson, who told the Baltimore news outlet, "During the arrest, the subject, Roy McGrath, sustained injury and was transported to the hospital," where he was later pronounced dead.

McGrath's own attorney, Joseph Murtha, told the Banner, "It’s an absolute tragedy, the loss of Roy McGrath’s life and the unfortunate events that have transpired over the past three weeks," and added, "Roy McGrath never wavered about his innocence."

Incident is under official review, questions remain unanswered

According to The Washington Post, an FBI spokesperson said the bureau is "reviewing an agent-involved shooting" and that "The FBI takes all shooting incidents involving our agents or task force members seriously."

Attorney Murtha reiterated to the Post that McGrath's death was an "absolute tragedy" but said with regard to how McGrath was killed, "That’s unclear to me at this time. I haven’t gotten any information on whether Roy died from gunfire from an agent or whether it was a self-inflicted wound."

Meanwhile, the Post noted that Maryland's capitol was abuzz over a mysterious new e-book recently published on Amazon and titled "Betrayed: The True Story of Roy McGrath," which portrayed McGrath as an innocent man who initially believed he was supported by the governor against false allegations only to then be thrown under the bus as a political scapegoat.

Gov. Hogan said in a statement in response to McGrath's death, "Yumi and I are deeply saddened by this tragic situation. We are praying for Mr. McGrath’s family and loved ones."