BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa will serve 10 months in federal prison for tax fraud, marking a stunning fall from grace for the man who headed the city’s police force this time last year.
The government had asked for a one-year sentence. De Sousa’s lawyers pleaded for no prison time.
“This is a sad day for you and for our city,” said Judge Catherine Blake. “We all agree this city needs a police force we can trust. The trust has been severely challenged over the past year. What you have done further erodes that trust.”
DeSousa’s prosecution was connected to the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal earlier this month.
Prosecutors allege De Sousa failed to file his taxes for years, and when he did, they said he lied on his forms.
Prosecutors said he claimed a mortgage deduction when he did not own a home, claimed charitable deductions he never made and claimed deductions for work-related expenses he never had.
“Simply put, Darryl De Sousa is a tax cheat,“ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise. “This conduct is a product of greed, contempt for the law and a sense of entitlement on his part. There is simply no other way to describe what he did.“
Wise said there is a wider problem of tax fraud among officers on the city’s police force and cited the case of Jemell Rayam, a disgraced detective who was part of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force and also cheated on his taxes.
De Sousa’s Defense Attorney Gerard Martin told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren after the hearing “of course I didn’t like it” and told the judge he wanted to make clear De Sousa was not involved in the GTTF’s wrongdoing.
He also described the roughly $67,000 De Sousa owed the government as a “pretty low number” and said his client cashed out his retirement and already paid the amount due to the government.
De Sousa begged the court for mercy. “I stand here before you humbled and ashamed by what I did,“ he said. “These were crimes of 100 percent irresponsibility and neglect. It was a failure of judgment. Period.”
The former commissioner told Judge Blake, “I’ve basically lost it all.”
The court also heard from De Sousa’s sister who said he spent time and money caring for their ailing parents.
“He’s devastated. He’s very sorry for the mistakes he’s made, very disappointed with himself,” Denise De Sousa said.
In an exclusive interview with Hellgren after the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said he hoped the prison sentence was a deterrent to others.
“As police commissioner, Mr. De Sousa held a position of public trust and unfortunately, betrayed that public trust by cheating on his taxes during the course of about 10 years,“ Hur said. “The laws apply to everyone whether you wear a badge or not.“
De Sousa was Mayor Catherine Pugh’s choice for commissioner — appointed in January 2018 — capping a 30-year career with the BPD. He resigned in May.
But the government said IRS agents notified the police department years before that De Sousa was incorrectly filling out withholding forms — raising concerns about the vetting process.
In court, De Sousa’s attorney said his client never even wrote the statement he tweeted after the initial charges.
“Someone else at the department wrote that,” Martin said after Wise attacked part of that statement as untrue.
Upon leaving court, De Sousa declined to say anything to the citizens he once served.
He remains free, but is expected to self-report to federal prison within the next six to eight weeks.
“It’s important for all citizens to understand, when they cheat on their taxes, there’s got to be consequences,” Blake said.
She also ordered De Sousa to perform 100 hours of community service once he is released.