Manhunt launched for ex-Chief of Staff to former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan
Law enforcement authorities have initiated a manhunt for Roy McGrath, onetime chief of staff to former Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, on an arrest warrant issued after he failed to appear for the first day of his scheduled trial on federal fraud, embezzlement, and false documents charges, as The Hill reports.
According to Washington, D.C.-area radio outlet WTOP, McGrath was due in Baltimore Monday for the start of proceedings that were expected to last roughly two weeks, and his absence prompted U.S. District Court Deborah Boardman to issue the aforementioned warrant and release prospective jurors for the time being.
According to the terms of McGrath's pretrial release, he had been required to surrender his passports and was forbidden from obtaining a new one, and he pledged to return in a timely fashion for the start of the trial this week.
McGrath, who currently resides in Florida, had reportedly agreed to fly from the Sunshine State back to Baltimore to meet up with his lawyer ahead of his 9:00 a.m. court date.
The attorney representing McGrath in the federal case, Joseph Murtha, indicated that he had made multiple attempts Monday morning to get in touch with his client as well as with his client's wife, but to no avail, something he deemed unusual, given that the defendant had "always been responsive," as WTOP added.
“Most importantly, I'm concerned. I'm hoping he's safe. These situations are very stressful, the uncertainty of going to trial can cause people to do things many people don't think are appropriate,” said Murtha. “We hope that he's safe.”
Murtha indicated that he spoke to his client on the telephone Sunday afternoon and noted that there was no indication that he did not intend to follow through with his travel plans.
Furthermore, McGrath reportedly had plans to stay at an undisclosed hotel in the Baltimore area, but Murtha said it was not clear whether the accused had actually checked into his room, WTOP reported.
According to the Washington Post, McGrath's Naples, Florida home has since been searched by law enforcement, but the absent criminal defendant was not there.
Despite Judge Boardman's determination that McGrath appeared to have violated his terms of pretrial release, she added, “Let's hope he's safe and there's some mix-up.”
Federal, state offenses alleged
As CBS News reported last summer, McGrath had been hit with a superseding federal indictment, adding an additional false document charge on top of a number of counts he was already facing in connection with his departure as CEO of Maryland Environmental Service – a move that preceded his start as Hogan's chief of staff.
The prior October, McGrath was charged in U.S. District Court on multiple counts of wire fraud and two of embezzlement as the result of a scheme to wrongfully obtain in excess of $276,731, as a press release from the Justice Department explained.
Prosecutors claimed in the original indictment that McGrath misled the Maryland Environmental Service board of directors that Hogan had allowed a severance payment to McGrath of more than $233,000, roughly the same amount he was poised to earn as chief of staff to the governor.
When specifically asked whether Hogan had given the green light to such a payment, McGrath falsely answered in the affirmative, and the now-ex government official also allegedly submitted fraudulent time sheets, received tuition payments to which he was not entitled, and falsified documents to create the impression that Hogan had approved the severance amount. McGrath was also hit with separate state charges related to theft and to allegedly illegally recorded conversations with state officials.
"Serious and deeply troubling"
According to the DOJ, if McGrath is convicted, he faces a 20-year maximum sentence for each of five wire fraud counts, a 10-year maximum sentence for each of two embezzlement counts, and another 20-year maximum sentence for the document falsification charge. In the state case, a conviction could bring five-year sentences on each of the theft and Maryland Wiretap Statute charges leveled against McGrath.
In the wake of the initial indictment, Mike Ricci, a spokesman for then-Gov. Hogan declared, “These charges are very serious and deeply troubling, Marylanders deserve to know that their public officials are held to the highest ethical standards,” as CBS News noted.
Phil Selden, first assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, said, “Honesty and integrity are essential elements of a public servant and those who operate in public trust.”
“Together with our federal and state partners, our office will continue to investigate and prosecute public officials who attempt to violate their trusted positions,” Selden added. But it remains to be seen whether McGrath will ultimately be located and forced to face judgment on the charges brought against him by the DOJ and the state of Maryland.