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Prosecutors: McGrath forged document showing Hogan OK’d severance deal

Roy C. McGrath, former chief of staff to Gov. Larry Hogan and executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service, is now accused of forging a document he earlier claimed showed Hogan approved his severance package. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

A memo purporting to show Gov. Larry Hogan knew of and approved of a massive severance payment to his incoming chief of staff was falsified, according to documents filed in federal court Tuesday.

Roy C. McGrath faces federal charges of fraudulently obtaining more than $275,000 from the Maryland Environmental Service. A superseding indictment announced by federal prosecutors now alleges McGrath faked a document he claimed proved the governor knew of and approved of a payment from Maryland Environmental Services.

“Honesty and integrity are essential elements of a public servant and those who operate in public trust,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Phil Selden. “Together with our federal and state partners, our office will continue to investigate and prosecute public officials who attempt to violate their trusted positions.”

U.S. Attorney for Maryland Erek Barron has recused himself from the case.

McGrath was already facing a six-count federal indictment and related state charges filed in October 2021.

The charges stem from his time McGrath leading the quasi-public Maryland Environmental service agency from December 2016 until May 31, 2020. He left the agency to become Hogan’s chief of staff and took over as the governor’s top adviser the next day, earning a salary of more than $233,000.

His tenure in the position was short. McGrath resigned on Aug. 17 after his severance package from MES became public.

Hogan has repeatedly and vehemently denied having foreknowledge of the payment arranged by McGrath.

In a November interview with the Washington Post, McGrath proclaimed his innocence. To bolster his claims, he provided the newspaper with documents, including screenshots of text messages he claimed were between himself and Hogan.

He also provided a copy of a May 18, 2020, memo.

The newspaper reported McGrath drafted the memo himself. The document includes two boxes — one labeled “Approved” and one labeled “Disapproved. Needs further discussion.” The “Approved” box contains a blue check mark. McGrath alleged in the Washington Post report that Hogan himself checked the box.

McGrath claimed the document was proof of a confidential agreement between himself and Hogan regarding the severance payment.

Prosecutors Tuesday said McGrath “knowingly falsified” the memo that referenced a salary of $233,647.23, and a severance package from MES. 

The document “contained a blue check mark, as characteristically used by the Governor of Maryland, in the “approved” box which created the illusion that the Governor had seen and approved the memorandum.” Prosecutors allege McGrath backdated the document to the date McGrath interviewed for the chief of staff position with the governor.

That original federal indictment accused McGrath of fraudulently securing a $233,647.23 severance payment from MES in May 2020.

McGrath is accused of  falsely telling the board that Hogan approved the payment. McGrath allegedly filed false time sheets with MES, claiming he was working while actually on vacation, according to the indictment.

Additionally, McGrath is accused of using funds from the service to pay a pledge he made personally to a museum. He also allegedly had the service pay nearly $15,000 so he could attend Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education program after he left MES.

If convicted, McGrath could face prison sentences of up to 20 years on each count of wire fraud plus fines of up to $250,000 for each as well as any ordered restitution. He faces additional penalties of 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines plus restitution for each count of misappropriation.

He also faces state charges including misconduct by a public official, misappropriation and violating the Maryland Wiretap Statute by recording private conversations with state officials without their consent.