Madeleine O'Neill//March 13, 2023
//March 13, 2023
A federal judge issued an arrest warrant Monday for Roy C. McGrath, the former chief of staff to ex-Gov. Larry Hogan who was set to face trial this week on fraud charges.
McGrath did not appear in court for a 9 a.m. arraignment, at which he was also expected to formally decline a plea offer ahead of his trial.
After about an hour of waiting, U.S. District Judge Deborah L. Boardman issued an arrest warrant for McGrath. Jurors were held for another hour before being dismissed, a step that means the trial will have to be postponed even if McGrath shows up.
McGrath’s defense lawyer, Joseph Murtha, said Monday that he had texted McGrath and McGrath’s wife without receiving a response. Murtha said he spoke with McGrath Sunday evening for about an hour and a half and agreed with McGrath to meet at 8:45 a.m. Monday morning at the federal courthouse in Baltimore.
McGrath was set to fly in from Florida, where he is now living, Sunday evening and stay in a hotel here during his trial. Murtha said he did not know whether McGrath checked into his hotel.
“Mr. McGrath and I spoke regularly and spoke last night in anticipation of the trial beginning today,” Murtha said. “I have no idea where he is. I hope that he’s safe and hope to speak to him very soon.”
McGrath faces an eight-count federal indictment. The charges stem from his time leading the Maryland Environmental Service from December 2016 until May 31, 2020. He left the quasi-public agency to become Hogan’s chief of staff on June 1, 2020.
The indictment alleges that McGrath fraudulently schemed to secure a $233,648 severance payment equal to one year’s salary as the head of MES before leaving the agency to become Hogan’s top advisor. McGrath falsely led members of the MES board to believe that Hogan approved of the severance payment, the indictment charges.
McGrath also faces fraud and embezzlement charges related to tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and to his failure to take vacation time while visiting Florida and traveling on a cruise to Spain, France and Italy.
The indictment also accuses McGrath of falsifying a memo in a fraudulent effort to show that Hogan was informed of the severance arrangement and signed off on the deal.
McGrath resigned as Hogan’s chief of staff on Aug. 17, 2020, after his severance package from MES became public.
Hogan has repeatedly denied knowing about the payment McGrath was arranging for himself. The former governor was set to testify during McGrath’s three-week trial.
McGrath has been free on his own recognizance since his initial appearance in court in October 2021. As a condition of his release, McGrath was required to surrender his passport to the clerk of court’s office in Fort Myers, Florida.
His travel was limited to Maryland, Florida, and anywhere else approved by the U.S. Probation Office. He was also required to report to the probation office in Fort Myers when directed, court records show.
McGrath does not appear to have requested permission to travel while his case has been pending. The only amendment to his conditions of release came in January, when McGrath asked to be exempted from receiving a psychiatric evaluation.
A magistrate judge approved the request, which prosecutors did not oppose. McGrath’s pretrial release order included the requirement that he receive a psychiatric evaluation “as directed by pretrial services.” The order also prohibited McGrath from possessing a gun, and indicated that McGrath’s wife would turn over a firearm by Oct. 29, 2021.
As of Monday afternoon, a nationwide search of federal court records did not turn up evidence that McGrath had been taken into custody.
Property records show that McGrath and his wife, Laura Bruner, own a home in an upscale gated community in Naples, Florida. Neighbors said Monday afternoon that the area was quiet and that police had been around to speak with people intermittently. One man said the couple is “very quiet” and rarely seen outside.
Cameras in the neighborhood reportedly showed that McGrath’s vehicle was at his home Sunday evening and gone Monday morning, a source told The Daily Record.
Bruner was expected to exercise spousal privilege to avoid testifying — she and McGrath married on Sept. 25, 2021, less than two weeks before McGrath was indicted in federal court, according to public marriage records.
McGrath is also facing state charges in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. He is charged with illegally recording conversations between himself, Hogan, and other top state officials, along with misconduct in office, embezzlement and theft.F