As if there weren’t enough questions swirling around the disappearance of former Maryland government official Roy McGrath before his criminal trial, another puzzle has emerged.
With the manhunt heading into its second week, a self-published book went for sale online and captured attention Monday: “Betrayed: The True Story of Roy McGrath.”
It’s billed as a juicy tell-all based on interviews with McGrath. And spoiler alert, the interviews are apparently from before he went missing. The aide to former Gov. Larry Hogan vanished on March 13 before his federal trial on charges of fraud, theft and falsifying records. The U.S. Marshals Service and FBI have been looking for him ever since.
Now in his absence, someone else is claiming to tell his story — for $4.99 an e-copy. But who?
The author describes his book as containing Hogan’s “delusional, ego-driven aspirations for the White House,” and he hints at “never-before-known details of the Hogan scandals.”
McGrath’s attorney said he was surprised to discover a biography listed for his fugitive client.
“He never said anything to me about it. It may be the last thing he wanted to tell an attorney, ‘Hey, I’m putting a lot more stuff in writing,” Joseph Murtha said. “We never had any conversation about him writing a book.”
The e-book is available for presale now; Amazon lists a publication date of Wednesday — that would mark day 10 of the manhunt for McGrath. The odd timing and McGrath’s past insistence that he’s done nothing wrong has led to a theory about the unknown author, “Ryan Cooper.”
”Maybe Ryan Cooper is really Roy McGrath,” Murtha offered.
After all, McGrath has spoken publicly about writing a tell-all. He even had settled on the title of “Operation Enduring Friendship: A Maryland Politician’s Legacy of Lies and Deception,” McGrath told The Washington Post in 2021.
Then, there’s this flattering description from the website.
“Betrayed: The True Story of Roy McGrath begins with his hard work, devotion to family, friends, and God, but tragically leads to being surreptitiously lied about, politically persecuted by politicians and the media, and relentlessly and unfairly harassed by the very government and colleagues he had faithfully served.”
Who is Ryan Cooper?
When The Banner responded to an emailed press release about the book, a man called to say he was the author. He declined to give his middle name or age, but said he retired from Hagerstown to Florida.
“I prefer not to have a story about me,” the man who identified himself as Cooper told The Banner. “This is Roy’s story, and I’m just a tool to help him get it out.”
The man said he had followed McGrath’s plight and, “I just thought the dots didn’t all add up. When I did more reading about it, I thought maybe I’ll reach out to him. We got to talking.”
McGrath resigned as Hogan’s chief of staff amid controversy over a payout of more than $233,000 that he negotiated when he transferred to the governor’s office from the state’s environmental service. An investigation found McGrath carried out a scheme to enrich himself personally by defrauding the government, according to prosecutors.
A longtime Hogan ally, McGrath has claimed the governor supported the payout. Hogan, meanwhile, has said publicly and repeatedly that he didn’t know of it or give his blessing.
McGrath was also charged in Anne Arundel Circuit Court with misconduct in office, embezzlement and wiretapping. Prosecutors have accused him of recording other government officials — including Hogan — without their consent.
The man behind the new e-book said McGrath had a manuscript of hundreds of pages before they began to work together. They discussed edits over several Zoom calls during the past two years and last spoke in January, he said.
McGrath was made to be the political fall guy, he concludes.
“It’s [the book is] going to raise some eyebrows,” he said. “There’s a lot of things Roy told me that he didn’t want to say because he was worried for retribution. ... They pretty much all piled on him unfairly.”
The author said they planned to release the book after trial, but then McGrath disappeared. Last week, FBI agents placed a concerned phone call to Florida and asked authorities to perform a welfare check at McGrath’s home.
“He doesn’t have any kind of violent criminal past, but we are concerned he may have committed suicide at this point,” an FBI agent said in the recorded call.
In McGrath’s gated community, law enforcement came and went throughout the week. A neighbor’s cellphone video from Wednesday morning showed officers in tactical equipment approaching McGrath’s house with their guns drawn.
“I’m frankly worried about him,” the author said. “He is not the kind of guy who just goes missing, a very strait-laced and responsible person. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
With McGrath missing, he hurried to self-publish. From the Amazon description, the book blames Hogan for “not hesitating to hang his friend, Roy, out to dry when the political headwinds became too strong.”
The author spoke from the road Monday afternoon. He was asked for something to corroborate that he worked with McGrath to write the tell-all. He offered to email a reporter a copy of the book Monday night.
First, he said, he had to fly up from Florida to meet a publisher.
Reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.