Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, made an initial appearance in federal court on Friday on charges that he defrauded the state when he negotiated a six-figure payout to switch from one government job to another.
McGrath faces six federal counts and more than two dozen state charges related to his conduct as executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service, the job he held before Hogan brought him to the State House to be his chief of staff in June 2020.
In addition to allegedly misleading Maryland Environmental Service board members into believing that Hogan approved the $238,000 worth of severance, federal prosecutors accuse McGrath of misusing the agency’s money to pay for a training course at Harvard University and to make donations to an art museum on the Eastern Shore.
If convicted, McGrath faces up to 20 years in prison on each of four federal charges of wire fraud and up to 10 years in prison on each of two federal charges of misappropriation.
McGrath was not physically present in U.S. District Court in Baltimore; the brief hearing was held virtually and made available to the public over a teleconference line.
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Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo ordered that McGrath, now living in Florida, can continue on a status that does not require him to report to jail while awaiting trial.
McGrath spoke briefly a few times, answering DiGirolamo’s questions about whether he understood the charges against him and his right to have an attorney represent him. McGrath was represented by Sydney M. Patterson of the MarcusBonsib law firm in Greenbelt.
McGrath had been scheduled for an initial hearing Monday on the state charges in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis, but that hearing was canceled. Those charges include nine counts of wiretapping for illegally recording conversations with Hogan and other government officials without their consent. He also has been charged with misconduct in office, theft and embezzlement.
McGrath resigned from his job as the governor’s chief of staff in August 2020 — several days after The Baltimore Sun first reported on his severance package. It amounted to a payment of a year’s salary of $233,647, plus more than $5,000 in tuition benefits. McGrath had served as chief of staff for just 11 weeks.
Soon after, state lawmakers launched their own investigation, questioning McGrath and others under oath about his actions. McGrath invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at least 170 times during questioning by legislators.
The legislative investigation was put on hold once the state and federal charges were announced earlier this month.
McGrath, meanwhile, has maintained in Facebook posts and emails to The Sun that none of his actions were improper and that he is a victim of “politically motivated bullies.”