An ex-top cop in Baltimore gets 10 months for tax fraud

An ex-top cop in Baltimore gets 10 months for tax fraud

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Darryl De Sousa, 54, served as Baltimore's police commissioner for just four months last year before resigning after he was hit with tax charges.(Photo by Mike Jordan)

BALTIMORE —  A former Baltimore police commissioner on Friday was sentenced to 10 months for cheating on his income taxes.

In a plea deal, Darryl De Sousa admitted that he did not file tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015. In other years, he falsely claimed exemptions, allowances and deductions to reduce his federal and Maryland tax liabilities, according to the plea deal — including  deductions for real estate and a business although he owned neither.

A sentencing memo filed March 18 said De Sousa “deliberately took steps to defraud the State of Maryland and the federal government.” The memo noted that a corruption probe of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force found that some officers had tax shared tips that involved claiming fraudulent deductions to increase refunds.

De Sousa’s attorney said in federal court in Baltimore today that his client took his co-workers’ advice on tax strategies but didn’t really understand what he was doing.

However, U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake didn’t buy that explanation.

“This is a sad day for you and for our city,” she told de Sousa in court on Friday, WJZ-CBS Baltimore reported. “There is simply no excuse that you did not know it was wrong to lie on your tax returns.”

De Sousa told the judge he had used pension funds to pay his tax arrears of approximately $67,000.

De Sousa, a 30-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, was promoted in January 2018 by Mayor Catherine Pugh on the same day she fired former Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. The Baltimore City Council confirmed De Sousa the following month.

But De Sousa resigned last May after only four months of leading the department. Days earlier he had been suspended, the day after he was charged with three misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal taxes for 2013, 2014 and 2015. The mayor was criticized for her vetting process after it emerged that the police department had previously been aware of irregularities in De Sousa’s taxes.

De Sousa was earning an annual salary of $210,000 when he stepped down.

The former commissioner had faced a maximum sentence of 3 years. The judge also sentenced him to 100 hours of community service. He is expected to report to prison in six weeks.

De Sousa was Baltimore’s 40th police commissioner. The city has had a revolving door of commissioners for decades. Baltimore’s troubled police department has been operating under a federal consent degree since 2016 after the U.S. Justice Department found widespread discriminatory practices in the agency. Corruption also has been a constant problem. Last year, eight officers of the former nine-member Gun Trace Task Force either pleaded guilty or were convicted of racketeering charges for stealing drugs, cash and jewelry from residents. Sentences have been as long as 25 years and the task force was disbanded.

The number of homicides in the city of about 600,000 residents exceeded 300 in 2018 as well as the previous three years. Baltimore received global attention for riots in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was fatally injured in police custody. Six officers were charged in his death but after an acquittal and a mistrial, the charges were dropped for the remaining four officers and all of them returned to the work.

The Baltimore City Council confirmed Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, 49, to a five-year contract on March 11, exactly one month after he began serving in an acting capacity. The former New Orleans police chief will be paid $275,000 for his first year — nearly $100,000 more than his salary in the Crescent City and $65,000 more than De Sousa would have earned annually. Harrison’s five-year contract promises 3 percent increases each year.

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