A federal judge issued a bench warrant Monday for Roy McGrath, once a top aide to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), after he did not appear in court for the first day of trial on wire fraud and embezzlement charges, according to federal prosecutors.
By Monday afternoon, McGrath appeared to remain a fugitive as authorities had not announced if he had been located.
He became the subject of a joint investigation shortly after it was publicly revealed that he was given a severance package of nearly a quarter of a million dollars when he left the Maryland Environmental Service (MES).
McGrath’s severance package, what the MES board was told and whether the governor knew about the payout became the focus of a legislative inquiry and the basis of the criminal investigation.
McGrath was accused of personally enriching himself by “using his positions of trust” as the executive director of MES and the chief of staff for Hogan to push MES to make the large payout and pay other expenses, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
The revelations of the severance deal, which led to McGrath’s resignation from public service, and the charges took many who knew him at the time in Annapolis by surprise. Both Republican and Democratic politicos and appointees described him as a strait-laced administrator who played it by the book.
McGrath, who lives in Florida, has been free on his own recognizance since his initial court appearance in October 2021. Officials from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said they had responded to a request to go to his home but did not locate him.
Joseph Murtha, McGrath’s attorney, said Monday that it was unusual for McGrath to be unresponsive to his calls and to fail to appear in court.
“It is my hope that he is safe and that we will soon speak with one another,” Murtha said in an email.
McGrath had told media outlets that Hogan supported the $233,647.23 severance package he received before joining the executive team.
The governor repeatedly denied knowledge of the payout. Court documents filed last year suggested that Hogan would be called by prosecutors as a witness in the trial.
When federal prosecutors filed a charge last year against McGrath for allegedly falsifying and backdating a document that he said was from Hogan, Murtha released a statement that his client “firmly stands by the fact that Governor Hogan formally approved of his compensation from Maryland Environmental Service, and sadly, turned his back on Mr. McGrath to avoid the political fall out of his decision.”
A spokesman for Hogan did not respond to emails requesting comment.
McGrath and Hogan had a long history that dated back to the early 1990s. Hogan once described McGrath as a “trusted adviser” who helped him build his administration after his 2014 gubernatorial victory.
Hogan initially tapped McGrath as a senior adviser and liaison to the Board of Public Works. He served for a few months before he was named Hogan’s deputy chief of staff; he then was elevated to take the lead at MES in December 2016.
In June 2020, in the throes of the pandemic, the governor asked McGrath, whom he called a “leader with a proven track record . . . and a passionate commitment to public service,” to take one of the most powerful positions in state government as his chief of staff.
McGrath held the role for a little over two months and resigned in mid-August. The charges stem from alleged activities from March 2019 to December 2020.
Prosecutors say McGrath falsified time sheets, recording that he was at work while he was on two separate vacations to Europe and Florida in 2019.
Prosecutors also allege that MES funds were used to make a pledge on McGrath’s behalf to the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Md., of which McGrath was a member of the board of directors; to pay the severance amount to McGrath; and to cover a $14,475 tuition bill for a Harvard Kennedy School program he took after leaving MES.
A jury had not been selected as the trial began Monday, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland said. The court reconvened late Monday morning after a break, and the judge released the pool of potential jurors for the day, she said. It was unclear on Monday when the trial would proceed.
“The arrest warrant was issued and law enforcement is looking for him,” Marcia Lubin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland, said in an email.