BALTIMORE – Baltimore’s top cop has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
The U.S. Attorney’s office claimed in a statement that Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa “willfully failed to file a federal return for tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, despite having been a salaried employee of the Baltimore Police Department in each of those years.”
The Baltimore Sun reported that DeSousa earns approximately $210,000 per year as police commissioner.
The federal offenses have an exposure of one year in prison and a $25,000 fine on each of the three counts.
There was no immediate response from DeSousa. Police department spokesman TJ Smith released a brief statement saying “the city will have a statement at some point.”
DeSousa became Baltimore’s police commissioner earlier this year when Mayor Catherine Pugh fired Commissioner Kevin Davis after 2 1/2 years as top cop, saying a change in leadership was needed to oversee crime reduction strategies in the Mid-Atlantic city with an eye-popping violent crime rate.
DeSousa, who joined Baltimore Police Department in 1988, had pledged to stamp out police corruption in the wake of an explosive federal investigation that exposed a task force of dirty detectives and deeply embarrassed the department already struggling with low morale and a serious public trust deficit.
The 53-year-old veteran commander has launched an anti-corruption unit and introduced plans for random integrity and polygraph testing. He has also hired an inspector general to help oversee implementation of a federal consent decree requiring broad police reforms.
DeSousa’s initial court appearance has not yet been scheduled. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said she could not comment on whether De Sousa was aware the charges were coming or if federal investigators had executed any search warrants in connection to the case.
Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said he didn’t have any information about DeSousa being charged. “I know zero about it,” he said.
Greg Tucker, a spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh, said DeSousa retains her confidence and she has not asked him to resign.
According to charging documents, DeSousa earned $93,104 in 2013, when he is first accused of failing to file taxes. He earned $101,985 in 2014 and $127,089 in 2015.
A spokesman for the state comptroller declined to answer questions about the status of DeSousa’s state tax filings.
“We don’t discuss an individual’s or business’ tax status,” said Alan Brody, spokesman for the office.
As a police commander, DeSousa easily won official confirmation to the commissioner position on a 14-1 vote by the Baltimore City Council — without debate — in late February.
As a result, he is the first commissioner to come up through the ranks of the department since Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who served from 2007 to 2012. Davis and former commissioner Batts were hired from outside.
During his rise through the department, DeSousa held various leadership roles, mostly in the patrol division. He was made a deputy commander of the Northeast District in 2008, and then became the commanding officer of the same district in 2011. In 2012, he was appointed lieutenant colonel overseeing the neighborhood patrol division, then colonel and chief of patrol in 2013, reported the Baltimore Sun.
DeSousa is a native of New York City but has lived in Baltimore since moving there to attend Morgan State University in 1983. When he was named to the department’s top position in January, DeSousa described himself as “a chess player” who has always been focused on the operational side of policing. “Everybody that knows me knows I’m a chess player, and I don’t like to be outwitted,” DeSousa said.
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He earns a salary of about $210,000 a year.
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the local police union, said he couldn’t comment on the ongoing case, as he wasn’t familiar with “any of the circumstances behind these charges.”
“Obviously income taxes are a personal thing,” he said. “We’ll see how it pans out.”
The commissioner may face more problems in the near future. According to the federal court documents, “Law enforcement continues to investigate the defendant for additional violations of federal criminal law. Disclosure of the Information and this motion to Seal at this time may compromise the on-going investigation, including causing the destruction of evidence, and potential witness tampering.”
Many officers familiar with the history in Baltimore have called for Governor Larry Hogan to re-take control of the department from the City. It is a State agency and has been since the 19th century because of rampant political corruption back then. Here is an article with details on the issue.