Roy McGrath, who served as former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff for 11 weeks, is set to stand trial in federal court this week on charges of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state.
Attorneys are expected to begin picking a jury Monday for the trial, which is scheduled to run for several weeks in Baltimore’s U.S. District Courthouse. Federal prosecutors said in court papers that they need two weeks to present their case.
McGrath, 53, is charged with wire fraud, embezzlement and falsifying a document.
According to his federal indictment, McGrath siphoned money from the government-owned nonprofit Maryland Environmental Service while leading the organization. Federal prosecutors say he claimed to be working while vacationing; used the organization’s funds to pay for personal expenses, like tuition; and doctored up a $233,000 severance package.
The indictment also accuses McGrath of illegally recording a 2020 phone call with other top advisers to Hogan, a Republican whose second term ended in January.
Hogan, who initially expressed support for McGrath, will testify for the government against his former chief of staff.
McGrath’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, declined to comment ahead of the trial.
The federal indictment followed state charges against McGrath brought by State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III. McGrath is scheduled for trial in July on those charges in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court — a short walk from the State House.
McGrath’s federal trial was supposed to begin in October, but U.S. District Judge Deborah Boardman postponed the case at his request. Murtha cited a trove of documents disclosed by prosecutors in the days leading up to the October date in saying the defense needed more time to prepare.
Federal prosecutors have said McGrath came up with a scheme to enrich himself by abusing his stature in state government.
At the case’s core is the $233,000 severance package McGrath received when he left the environmental service to lead Hogan’s staff. The Baltimore Sun broke news of the arrangement, which amounted to a full year’s pay for McGrath, who was set to earn nearly the same amount as the governor’s chief of staff.
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Federal prosecutors, citing emails between McGrath and the board, say he tricked the environmental service’s board of directors into approving his severance.
“Hi, the HR committee wants to make sure that the governor would be OK with you receiving severance equal to one year’s pay. They are worried about the optics and don’t want to do anything to make the Governor look bad,” a board member wrote to McGrath, according to the federal indictment. “I told them I thought that the governor was aware and was ok with it. Correct?”
According to the federal indictment, McGrath responded: “It’s anticipated, yes. Not to mention the precedences [sic].”
Prosecutors say Hogan was not aware.
In addition to the severance package, prosecutors say that on at least two occasions McGrath lied about working while he was vacationing in Spain and in Florida.
McGrath persuaded a subordinate to pay for his tuition at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and expense it to the environmental service and then McGrath approved the subordinate’s expense report, according to the indictment.
The call McGrath is accused of illegally taping happened around the time The Sun broke news of his six-figure severance. McGrath resigned Aug. 17, 2020, shy of two months into his new job.