Federal prosecutors want a year in prison for former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa for engaging in “serial tax fraud for almost a decade” that was encouraged by other officers.
In a sentencing memorandum filed Friday, the prosecutors — who are also handling the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal — for the first time linked De Sousa’s prosecution with the wider corruption case, saying they uncovered evidence that city officers shared tips about how to get tax refunds by claiming fraudulent deductions.
De Sousa pleaded guilty in December to three counts of failure to pay taxes, and will be sentenced March 29.
De Sousa’s attorney, Gerard Martin, acknowledged a scheme to avoid taxes within the Baltimore Police Department, saying De Sousa was “advised by co-workers” that “he could save money on his taxes and get bigger refunds if he handled his taxes in a certain way.” He said De Sousa was referred to tax preparers and advisers by other members of the department.
Martin said De Sousa didn’t understand what he was doing. “As he put it, ‘they were just a bunch of numbers on a form’ to him,” Martin wrote.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise countered that De Sousa “did not make a mistake or simply fail to take an action required of all citizens” but “deliberately took steps to defraud the state of Maryland and the federal government.”
“He falsely claimed deductions for unreimbursed employee expenses, when he had no such expenses; mortgage interest deductions and deductions for local property taxes, when he did not have a mortgage or own any real property; business losses when he did not operate any businesses; and charitable contributions, in both cash and in items, that he did not make,” Wise wrote.
Martin called the sentencing guidelines for De Sousa “unduly severe” and said De Sousa has paid restitution to the federal and state government, in addition to the consequences of losing his job and public humiliation.
Since retiring from the Police Department, De Sousa has been active in volunteer work, Martin said, including delivering meals for Moveable Feast, mentoring children in city schools, running a men’s ministry and book club, helping provide security to community organizations, and even becoming a certified hospice care worker and working with patients.
He maintains that his tax violations were a result of “inattention and irresponsibility in managing his own affairs while he was almost overwhelmed with his concerns about family and work.”
De Sousa, a 30-year veteran, was appointed by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh to take over the department in January 2018, about two weeks before the federal trial of two Gun Trace Task Force officers.
He was charged with the tax violations in early May, and resigned.
If sentenced to prison, De Sousa would not be the first former city police commissioner to get federal prison time for financial crimes. In 2004, Edward T. Norris was sentenced to six months for conspiring to misuse money from a supplemental city police fund and lying on tax returns.
Wise did not say that the Gun Trace Task Force investigation sparked the probe of De Sousa’s taxes. He said “the IRS and FBI learned in the course of their investigation in this case and in the investigation of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force that other BPD officers engaged in similar conduct.”
He said in the sentencing memo that convicted Detective Jemell Rayam falsely claimed deductions for charitable giving and for unreimbursed employee expenses, “the same fraudulent deductions that the defendant claimed.”
“That is not a coincidence,” Wise wrote.
No one else has been criminally charged with taking part in such a practice within the Police Department.