What does a travel company quietly created by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in 2019 have to do with the perjury charges she now faces as part of a four-count federal indictment?
The courts will make the ultimate judgment, but in the meantime statements by Mosby, her lawyers and her spokesperson over the past two years underscore the case that prosecutors are attempting to make.
The first and third counts of the indictment filed against Mosby accuse her of committing perjury by stating on applications for hardship distributions from her city deferred compensation account that she suffered “adverse financial consequences” in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Mosby was not entitled to take the distributions in the absence of such a hardship.
Her lawyer has explained that the hardship was based on the loss of income from her travel business as provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), necessarily implying that the business was up and running at the time of the applications.
Mosby, her spokesperson and her lawyers have backed Mosby into an evidentiary corner with past and current statements about her travel company, known as Mahogany Elite Travel, and two affiliates, Mahogany Elite Enterprises and Mahogany Elite Consulting.
According to these statements, the company was and was not operational, did and did not have clients, and was and was not open for business. That’s not going to play well to a jury.
A TIMELINE shows how difficult it will be for her to extricate herself from the web that she has woven:
Mosby applies for and receives a hardship distribution from her account in the city’s deferred compensation plan in the amount of $40,000.
She certified under penalty of perjury that she experienced “adverse financial consequences” stemming from Covid-19 “as a result of being quarantined, furloughed or laid off; having reduced work hours; being unable to work due to lack of childcare; or the closing or reduction of hours of a business I own or operate.”
State’s Attorney’s Communications Director Zy Richardson responds to questions asked by Baltimore Brew about Mosby’s private businesses.
Richardson said that Mosby established the travel company in 2019 “to help underserved Black families who don’t usually have the opportunity to travel outside of urban cities, so they can vacation at various destinations throughout the world at discount prices.”
Richardson described the company as “a long-term venture, hence the reason why there are no clients, and she [Mosby] has not received a single cent in revenue.”
She added that “there are no plans to operate the company while she is state’s attorney.”
Mosby applies for and receives another hardship distribution, this one for $50,000.
February 9, 2021
Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming issues a report on Mosby’s businesses and out-of-town travel, which Mosby herself had requested in an attempt to refute The Brew’s July 2020 article.
The IG raised the issue of whether Mosby violated state ethics law by failing to list her private companies on her initial financial disclosure form for 2019.
The IG noted that Mosby certified on her federal tax return that she had “materially participated” in Mahogany Travel in 2019 and claimed a deduction for $5,000 in start-up costs for the business.
The IG also noted that Mosby reported no revenue from the company on her 2019 tax return, and that Mosby told the IG that her businesses have no employees, contractors, or clients.
The IG deferred to the State Ethics Commission on the question of whether Mosby violated state ethics law.
February 12, 2021
Mosby responds to the IG report. A letter from her attorneys, David Schuster and Andrew Jay Graham, stated:
“Your Report notes that, although our client said her companies were not operational, she took a tax deduction for expenses related to the companies.
“Here, again, your Report is misleading. The companies that our client formed in 2019 are not operational. That is what she said. As she explained, the companies are brand new and are not yet conducting business. There were, however, expenses in connection with establishing the companies and with other activities before they could become operational. The deduction was proper and based on professional tax advice.”
January 13, 2022
Another attorney for Mosby, A. Scott Bolden, explains to the media that the financial hardship experienced by Mosby in 2020 was loss from her private travel business, not consequences to her employment as State’s Attorney. (In fact, Mosby’s salary as Baltimore’s top prosecutor increased from $238.772 in 2019 to $247,955 in 2020.)
So, Mahogany Elite Travel and its affiliates were conducting business for the purpose of hardship distributions of deferred compensation, but not for the purpose of Mosby’s financial disclosure obligations?
How could she suffer a loss from businesses that – according to Mosby, her spokesperson and her lawyers – were dormant and not soliciting clients?
The businesses were either up and running or they weren’t – Mosby can’t have it both ways.
Media: Press for Answers
The public deserves answers to the questions not being asked.
Unsurprisingly, neither Mosby nor Bolden has described the current status of Mahogany Travel, to answer such questions as:
- Is it up and running?
- Does it have employees, a telephone number, a website?
Indeed, has it ever been operational?
Or has it always been a shell company serving as a vehicle for things like claiming tax deductions and hardship distributions of deferred compensation?
Instead of sitting on their hands while Mosby and her allies deliver speeches and go on social media proclaiming her innocence, the news media needs to be more assertive.
It needs to start asking the right questions – and to do some digging.
• David A. Plymyer retired as Anne Arundel County Attorney in 2014 after 31 years in the county law office. He can be reached at email@example.com and Twitter @dplymyer.