When the ex-political aide Roy McGrath went on the run from federal agents in March, an unknown biographer fought for his reputation. The author, known only as “Ryan C. Cooper,” published two short e-books that aired McGrath’s grievances and extolled his virtues.
Cooper was all over the internet for one week, promoting the books, emailing reporters, giving author interviews from a phone number that, oddly, could not be called back. Then, silence.
Federal search warrants unsealed Tuesday finally shed light on the mystery of the author’s identity. FBI agents wrote that they connected Cooper’s email address to a Visa credit card that belonged to McGrath. They wrote that cellphone signals associated with activity from Cooper’s email address showed “travel to a variety of hotels in different states on the Eastern seaboard through at least March 21, 2023.”
“The government believes Mr. McGrath acted alone,” authorities wrote.
It’s the clearest indication yet that federal prosecutors and FBI agents, who have declined interviews on the matter, conclude that McGrath adopted the alter ego when he skipped out on his federal fraud trial in Baltimore.
McGrath was shot and killed during a confrontation with FBI agents April 3 outside Knoxville, Tennessee. An autopsy found he suffered two gunshot wounds to his head. Knox County prosecutors determined the shots were fired simultaneously, one by an FBI agent, the other by McGrath himself. Local and federal authorities have cleared the agents of any possible criminal wrongdoing.
McGrath insisted he did nothing wrong in negotiating more than $233,000 for himself when he left the state’s environmental service to be the top aide to former Gov. Larry Hogan.
He not only refused to return the money, but posted defiantly on Facebook and defended himself with an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun. He announced plans to write a tell-all, and even had a title, “Operation Enduring Friendship: A Maryland Politician’s Legacy of Lies and Deception,” McGrath told The Washington Post.
When The Banner responded to an emailed press release about the first book, a man called to say he was the author. He declined to give his middle name or age, details that could verify his identity, but said he retired from Hagerstown to Florida and sympathized with McGrath’s troubles.
A search warrant filing submitted on March 30 noted that a Baltimore-based reporter received an email on March 20, purporting to be the author “Ryan Cooper” using the email address RCoop2023@gmail.com.
The federal agent requesting the warrant wrote: “Investigators have been unable to locate any individual named ‘Ryan Cooper’ who wrote about McGrath. McGrath’s own attorney publicly stated that, ‘maybe Ryan Cooper is really Roy McGrath.’ Investigators also believe ‘Cooper’ may be McGrath, or may be an accomplice of McGrath’s.”
The warrant request went on to explain that Google had provided information that the email address was registered to the name “Ryan” on March 13 — the very day that McGrath was due in court and skipped out on his trial. The email account was linked to a Visa credit card belonging to McGrath, the agent wrote.
Then the emails to reporters by “Ryan C. Cooper” led agents to identify multiple cellphones and Google accounts connected to McGrath, according to the search warrants.
The author had emailed reporters from addresses including “rcoop2024@gmail” and “rcoop2023@gmail.” FBI agents connected the emails to two apparently unknown cellphones. The numbers also connected to Google accounts with names that matched the names of McGrath’s business and trust. When Cooper emailed reporters again, this time to announce the second book, agents connected the Google account to McGrath’s known cellphone.
McGrath resigned as Hogan’s chief of staff amid controversy over the payout of more than $230,000 that he negotiated when he transferred to the governor’s office from the state’s environmental service. A subsequent investigation found he carried out a scheme to enrich himself by defrauding the government, prosecutors alleged.
A federal grand jury indicted McGrath in October 2021 on charges of fraud, theft and falsifying records. He was also charged in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court with misconduct in office, embezzlement and wiretapping. Prosecutors accused him of recording other government officials, including Hogan, without their consent.
There has been much speculation about what Hogan and state officials said on those calls, but Maryland’s wiretapping law forbids authorities from releasing the recordings.
McGrath was scheduled to stand trial March 13 in Baltimore. When the 9 a.m. start time arrived, he didn’t show.
He spent the next three weeks evading the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. Federal authorities offered $20,000 for information leading to his arrest and came to focus their search on the Southern U.S. states.
His whereabouts during those three weeks remain unknown.
Meanwhile, the books remain for sale on Amazon: the first for $4.99, the second for $7.99. In his last email, Cooper had promised to publish a third book after McGrath was found.
There has been no third book.