McGrath, 53, had been a top aide to Larry Hogan when he was Maryland’s governor and became one of his top advisers. The Baltimore Sun broke the news that McGrath got a roughly quarter-million-dollar severance in 2020 when he left a quasi-public agency that he ran to become Hogan’s top aide. McGrath faced wire fraud and embezzlement charges related to alleged financial wrongdoings from when he was serving as the executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service (MES).
The news led to legislative hearings that Hogan (R) once called a “witch hunt” in a message to McGrath and caused a break between the two men.
McGrath had been a fugitive for 21 days and a manhunt started after he didn’t appear at a federal court in Baltimore last month. McGrath died Monday as the result of a confrontation with the FBI in the area of Knoxville, Tenn., according to his lawyer.
His lawyer, Joseph Murtha, called McGrath’s death “an absolute tragedy” and said his client maintained that he was innocent.
In a statement Monday night, the FBI said it was “reviewing an agent-involved shooting” that happened around 6:30 p.m. Officials said during his arrest, McGrath, sustained injury and was transported to the hospital. The statement went on, “the FBI takes all shooting incidents involving our agents or task force members seriously.”
Hogan was on the prosecution’s witness list for a trial expected to last several weeks. McGrath also was charged with theft, misconduct in office and violating Maryland’s wiretap laws by recording private calls with Hogan and other officials without their permission. A state trial was scheduled for this summer.
Born in Greece, McGrath grew up in Maryland and became involved in politics at 18, when he became a member of the Republican Party and later formed a Young Republicans club in Southern Maryland. McGrath knew Hogan as a congressional candidate in the early 1990s and served on his campaign committee during Hogan’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). At the time, McGrath was leading the Charles County Republican Central Committee.
The two met again in 2014 when McGrath, who was then working as vice president of business development and conventions at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, volunteered and donated to Hogan’s gubernatorial campaign. Shortly after Hogan won, he tapped McGrath as his deputy chief of staff.
In 2016, Hogan appointed McGrath to take over running MES. In 2020, the governor asked McGrath, whom he called a “leader with a proven track record … and a passionate commitment to public service,” to take one of the most powerful positions in state government as his chief of staff.
Former colleagues in the statehouse said McGrath was a consummate administrator and known for being meticulous, strait-laced, the type of person who always played it by the book. They described him as being a straightforward, formal and, at times, stiff colleague who focused on work and did not seem to have outsize political ambitions.
While under investigation, McGrath moved to Florida and bought a house in a gated community with his then-girlfriend. Federal agents executed a search warrant on the home on March 15.