Federal authorities raised the stakes Tuesday in their search for Roy McGrath by doubling a reward to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of the fugitive former Maryland government official.

FBI offices in Baltimore and Tampa, Florida announced a $10,000 reward Tuesday morning. By the afternoon, the U.S. Marshals Service doubled the reward to $20,000. Federal authorities are offering the money as their interstate manhunt for McGrath, 53, enters a third week.

The wanted posters list McGrath around 5 foot 5 and 140 pounds, with one possible alias of “Roy Baisliadou.” The posters note he’s a U.S. citizen born in Greece and considered an international flight risk by the FBI. Authorities are asking anyone with information to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or marshals at 1-866-4WANTED.

While officials have declined to answer questions about their search, the reward could indicate that they believe McGrath’s alive and on the run.

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“If they know he’s dead, they’re not going to put out a reward,” said Craig Caine, a retired U.S. marshal who pursued fugitives in New York.

FBI guidelines limit rewards to cases in which the investigation has stalled. Authorities have given no public indication they have leads on McGrath’s whereabouts.

“Rewards are often used to create an incentive to assist law enforcement and to put the squeeze on the fugitive, that there are more eyes in the public out there looking for you,” retired U.S. Marshal Martin J. Pane wrote in an email. “Also sometimes a case has gone cold and it can spike leads in the investigation.”

U.S. Marshals and FBI agents have sought McGrath since March 13, when the former head of the Maryland Environmental Service failed to show in federal court in Baltimore for his trial on charges of fraud, theft and falsifying records. In the two weeks since, agents searched his house in Naples, Florida, seized his wife’s cellphone, and circulated wanted posters with photos of the slim, former government official in a business suit.

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When McGrath skipped court, FBI agents placed a concerned phone call to Florida and asked sheriff’s deputies there to perform a welfare check at his Naples home.

“We’re concerned that something may have happened,” an FBI agent said in a recording obtained by The Baltimore Banner. “He doesn’t have any kind of violent criminal past, but we are concerned he may have committed suicide at this point.”

“This is unlike him to not be responsive,” the agent added.

Federal authorities have said little more as the search stretched on. On Thursday, a marshals spokesman expressed optimism about their efforts but declined to comment further.

In McGrath’s gated community, law enforcement have come and gone. A neighbor’s cellphone video showed officers in tactical equipment approaching McGrath’s house with their guns drawn. They led his wife, Laura Bruner, into the street. A source with knowledge of the investigation said officers seized her cellphone. She has not been accused of a crime.

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The situation took a puzzling turn last week, when a self-published e-book titled “Betrayed: The True Story of Roy McGrath” went on sale. The unknown author, who gave the name “Ryan C. Cooper,” claimed the book was based on McGrath’s own manuscript and their interviews from months ago. The book jumped to No. 4 among Amazon’s 100 bestsellers in “Political Commentary & Opinion.”

There’s been much speculation about the author. On a phone call with The Banner, the author described himself as a semi-retired man who moved from Hagerstown to Florida and felt sympathy for McGrath. Subsequent calls to the author were met with a recorded message saying the phone number was unavailable.

In Annapolis, the book captured attention. Political insiders said the scenes rang true — if flattering to McGrath. Attorneys said the book could become evidence at trial.

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 environmental service. An investigation found McGrath carried out a scheme to enrich himself personally by defrauding the government, according to prosecutors.

The prosecution alleges McGrath used environmental service money to pay a personal pledge to an Eastern Shore art museum, improperly had the environmental service pay for a leadership course at Harvard University, misled environmental service employees to pay him severance, claimed on his timecards that he was working when he was really on vacation, and faked a memo that purported to show Hogan approved of the severance payment.

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A federal grand jury indicted McGrath in October 2021. He 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.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo approved pretrial release for McGrath and set the conditions. He was ordered to surrender his passport and report on a regular basis to the court. McGrath was permitted to travel to Maryland and Florida, or elsewhere if approved by the court, and could not possess a firearm.

Judges and attorneys say it’s routine for pretrial release to be granted to defendants like McGrath, who have no previous criminal history and no record of violence.

The U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI are teaming up to offer a $20,000 reward for information in the search for Roy McGrath, an ex-top aide to former Gov. Larry Hogan, who didn't show for his federal criminal trial and is considered a fugitive.
The U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI are teaming up to offer a $20,000 reward for information in the search for Roy McGrath, an ex-top aide to former Gov. Larry Hogan, who didn't show for his federal criminal trial and is considered a fugitive.

This story has been updated.

tim.prudente@thebaltimorebanner.com