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Ex-Baltimore Police Commissioner De Sousa sentenced to 10 months in tax case

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa. (File photo)

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa. (File photo)

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa will serve 10 months in federal prison for years of tax fraud, the latest chapter in his self-described “downfall.”

De Sousa pleaded guilty in December to three counts of willful failure to file income tax, but attorneys for the government say after he was charged they uncovered a broader scheme of false deductions and exemptions that manipulated his tax obligation so that when he did pay taxes, he took home more.

“Simply put, your honor, Darryl De Sousa is a tax cheat,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake Friday.

De Sousa told Blake he stood before her “humbled and ashamed” of his actions, which cost him his role as the city’s police commissioner less than four months after his appointment in early 2018 and after 30 years with the department.

“These failures rest exclusively on me,” he said. “I knew better.”

Advisory guidelines recommended a sentence of between 10 and 16 months. Prosecutors were asking for one year.

De Sousa will voluntarily surrender to begin his sentence in the coming weeks. He will also have one year of supervised release once his sentence is served and 100 hours of community service.

“As a law enforcement officer, Darryl De Sousa knew that he had a duty to file tax returns. His failure to file was a crime – not an oversight,” U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in a statement. “Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government.”

Wise was critical of De Sousa’s statement after he was charged, which claimed he paid taxes during the years he failed to file because they were withheld from his paycheck but “failed to sufficiently prioritize (his) personal affairs.”

“Inattention and irresponsibility does not cause you to claim mortgage payments when you know full well you don’t own a home,” he said.

De Sousa told the court he was focused on family issues, including helping his sister in New York care for their ailing parents, beginning in the late 1990s and he wanted to get as much in his paycheck as possible to provide assistance.

His sister, Denise De Sousa, testified Friday that he made frequent trips to New York and provided as much physical and financial support as possible. Their mother was diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and their father had Parkinson’s disease.

Denise De Sousa said her brother is “devastated” by the criminal case and “very disappointed in himself.

Deterrent effect

De Sousa’s attorneys admitted in a sentencing memorandum to the court that he received advice from coworkers and tax preparers about how to save money on his taxes, including claiming false deductions. At least one former member of the Gun Trace Task Force has publicly testified about the tax advice officers share with each other.

The government argued De Sousa, who was asking for either probation or home detention, should be incarcerated to deter other police officers and citizens in general from similar behavior. Wise said deterrence is not merely theoretical in De Sousa’s case.

“Here, we know, we actually know, there is a problem and an audience for the deterrent message in this sentence,” he said.

De Sousa’s attorneys argued his very public “fall from grace” has been enough of a cautionary tale for police officers who may be considering manipulating their tax filings.

“When they see what’s happened to him, I don’t know what police officer would not be deterred,” said Gerard P. Martin, partner at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP in Baltimore.

Blake called De Sousa’s actions a “significant crime” and ultimately said she thinks incarceration is necessary to send a message.

Blake also noted the damage to public trust of law enforcement that De Sousa’s admitted actions caused.

“This is a sad day,” Blake said. “This is a sad day for you. It’s also a sad day for this city.”

The case is United States v. Darryl De Sousa, 1:18-cr-00276.

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