FBI raids home of ex-Maryland official as manhunt continues

BALTIMORE (AP) – Two days after former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s ex-chief of staff failed to appear in court to stand trial on federal corruption charges, FBI agents raided his Florida home as the search continues for Roy McGrath.

McGrath, 53, was declared a wanted fugitive after he disappeared Monday, leaving his attorney, Joseph Murtha, standing alone on the steps of Baltimore’s federal courthouse.

Murtha said he believed McGrath was planning to fly from Florida to Maryland on Sunday night to appear in court Monday morning, but that didn’t happen. Instead of beginning jury selection in accordance with the trial schedule, a judge issued an arrest warrant for McGrath and dismissed prospective jurors.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service announced they were launching an interstate manhunt for McGrath, who was indicted in 2021 on federal fraud charges.

He stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state, including a fraudulent $233,647 severance payment he obtained after leaving his position as executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service to become Hogan’s chief of staff in June 2020, according to a grand jury indictment. He also lied about working while he took multiple vacations and used state funds for personal expenses, the indictment says.

McGrath resigned from Hogan’s administration in August 2020 after news of his unusual severance payment became public. Following his arrest, McGrath was released on bond. He was required to turn in his passport as a condition of release, his attorney said.

McGrath later moved to Naples, Florida, where his wife, Laura Bruner, watched their home get raided by FBI agents Wednesday morning.

Murtha, McGrath’s attorney, confirmed the search in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, saying agents were likely looking for anything to indicate McGrath’s current whereabouts. An FBI spokesperson said agents “conducted court authorized activity at that residence” but declined to elaborate.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service didn’t respond to requests for comment. They issued a wanted poster for McGrath on Tuesday.

Murtha, who was recently in contact with McGrath’s wife, said she has been cooperating with authorities since his disappearance. She was present at their house Wednesday when agents conducted the search.

“She seemed upset and bewildered,” Murtha said.

Murtha said he had no reason to believe his client would skip out on court. He said they had a substantive conversation about the case Sunday evening. McGrath was supposed to board a plane later that night, his attorney said.

“I haven’t a clue. I didn’t see this coming,” he said. “This behavior is so out of the ordinary for him. Obviously his personal safety is a concern.”

McGrath was appointed by Hogan to serve as executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service in December 2016. The state-owned corporation provides environmental services such as water and wastewater management to government entities and private clients. According to federal and state prosecutors, McGrath personally enriched himself by taking advantage of his positions of trust as the environmental agency’s director and Hogan’s top aide.

He got the agency’s board to approve paying him a $233,647 severance payment – equal to one year’s salary – upon his departure as executive director by falsely telling them the governor had already approved the payment, according to prosecutors.

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