On Election Eve, Harford Sheriff’s Office Major Forwood Charged in Theft Scheme (UPDATED)

Major Mark Forwood, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s chief investigator, has been charged with involvement in a theft scheme dating back to November 2009, as well as misconduct in office.

Forwood was charged with a felony count of undertaking a theft scheme in the amount of $1,000 to under $10,000 dating from Nov. 14, 2009 to April 1 of this year. He was also charged with misconduct in office, a misdemeanor, dating from September 30, 2009 to April 12.

Forwood’s attorney Augustus Brown confirmed the charges, but said they did not come as a part of any plea deal.

“No plea deal has occurred,” Brown said. “When we see what the evidence is and we do our investigation in his defense, then decisions about a trial will be made – it is my hope in every case I handle that I may be able to convince the prosecutor to change his mind in some way.”

Brown added that Forwood has not been formally served with the charges, which are often served within a week of being filed, either in person or by mail. The case is unlikely to move forward until Wednesday, when courts reopen after election day.

Forwood’s case has been the political hot potato of the election season, and the charges come just a day before Sheriff Jesse Bane, who hand-picked Forwood as his head of criminal investigations, faces Republican Jeff Gahler in the general election.

The Dagger broke the news of an investigation into Forwood for allegations of “improper conduct” on April 13, when he was suspended with pay. Since then, the investigation has continued with little word on the nature of the allegations facing the 20-year veteran of the department.

Through the last weeks of the election season, Gahler has accused Bane of holding up the investigation until after the election for political gain. No explanation for the timing of the charges was immediately available from the Baltimore County Police Department of Baltimore County State’s Attorney.

Bane said Monday night he had not been aware of the charges until The Dagger called for comment, and had not informed by the Baltimore County Police Department or the Baltimore County State’s Attorney that the charges had been filed. He directed questions about the timing of the action to them, and to Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly.

Bane also strongly rebuked the idea of any implied political motive to the charges being made public on the eve of the election.

“If the results [of the investigation] were out today, that’s Baltimore County Police Department’s choice,” he said. “If someone is saying that [there was political motive in the timing], they’re saying that the Baltimore County Police Department is in cahoots with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. How ridiculous is that?”

“It doesn’t matter when it comes out,” he said. “People are always going to say, why did you do it then. I’m a police officer of 38 years experience…and I know that the results [of an investigation] can come out at any time.”

“All of a sudden, two weeks before the election, it’s an issue,” Bane said, referring to recent media stories in which Gahler claimed unnamed sources told him Bane was delaying the investigation until after the election.

Brown also dismissed the idea that it represented a political hit against Bane.

“I don’t believe anyone should assign any surreptitious motive in the timing of filing the charges,” he said. ”I personally know that the prosecutor did not have his investigation file until quite recently – he was also busy trying a jury trial in Baltimore County and he told me last week he was filing it today.”

“I assume their forensic investigation took them to many places over 5 or 6 months to get receipts, business records and other evidence they were looking at including from out of state,” Brown added. ”I know the Baltimore County Police have thousands of cases they are investigating and since this was not a serious crime against persons, their priorities may have changed as time goes by. I also know the investigators were on vacations at different times over the summer so they couldn’t quickly coordinate with each other the information they were reviewing before finalizing their reports to the prosecutor.”

Reached by The Dagger Monday night, less than 12 hours before the polls opened, Gahler said that Forwood’s alleged actions shouldn’t tarnish the work of the other employees of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, but do serve notice that new leadership is needed in the agency.

“Our citizens need to know that this is the act of one man that should not cloud the heroic efforts of so many professionals in our Sheriff’s Office. We need to continue to focus on the most important part of this campaign – the safety and security of our families, friends and neighbors. In this case, I have always said that the greater good of those we represent is of paramount importance. I believe that the greater good has now prevailed and we can begin to right the wrongs. This investigation and subsequent court action brings into sharp focus, the need for a positive change with my election as Sheriff of Harford County,” Gahler said.

Check back with The Dagger for further updates on this breaking story.

Comments

  1. Backbuster5 says

    Well it’s about time. It’s funny that the warrant will not be issued until after the election. I smell a rat!! This needs to be the lead story on all the local media tonight and all day tomorrow..

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    • recently retired says

      Wow! Forwood has Augustus Brown as his lawyer. In this article it sounds like he is defending Bane instead. Making excuses and assumptions for the slow investigation. He tries to minimize the importance of this case. It is not every day that a high-ranking police officer is charged with a felony. Sounds like it will be another 6-months or so for this to be dispositioned.

      No mention of the internal investigation. Bane could have had this matter resolved internally a long time ago. Maybe Forwood will resign and save everyone a lot of trouble. I wonder who he is voting for?

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      • OMG says

        How stupid is that. So let me get this straight for weeks the Gahler supporters have said that Bane is involved in a major cover up hiding the facts of the case until after the election. I have not been involved in the entire Bane Gahler fiasco that has occurred here on the dagger, but I must admit it has been entertaining. Now, back to my point. So Bane has so much power that he is covering this up yet, on the eve of the election it drops. Sure doesn’t sound like a cover up to me. What does Bane gain by having this released the night before voters hit the polls. If anything I would accuse Gahler’s camp (Don’t forget he is a Trooper with connections statewide I’m sure) of having this delayed until the night before the election. Hmmmmmmm I wonder.

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      • says

        I guess Forwood’s parents failed him also. If you believe what all the law enforcement folks on this web site say about all the other people who have been killed or charged with crimes. Now it’s one of their own LOL and yet not one rude remark about his family or how bad his up bringing was. Just goes to show we are all human. To Mr Forwood I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

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  2. Louie says

    Bane will win. I see Gahler now playing the part of a democrate ~ Mud Slinging and taking cheap shot’s,having poor choices in his camp. I though better of the Trooper but this now put’s the undecided in Bane’s camp Jeff, you shot yourself in the toes for this election and those to follow. If these account’s are accurate, my G~D boy, you are a liberal Dem,who now resort’s to a smear campaign? Never would have thought that but i would assume even Bob, will think poorly of you… Stay with the State, you messed up here!

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    • Charlie2Step says

      Lets Recap,

      Everything that Gahler ever printed or said about Bane was unconditionally true.

      The Budget was increased $19 Million from 2006 to 2010

      Violent Crime was Up significantly from 2004-2006 compared to 2007-2009.

      Mark Forwood is guilty and should have been relieved without pay.

      Fred Visnaw was found sleeping on the job and was kept employeed and was the head of the Union.

      Sheriff Bane is simply a politician. Every interview he did was full of half truths. The mistake Gahler made was not campaigning against Bane earlier. If Harford County would have known the whole truth about Bane earlier, Gahler would be Sheriff now.

      Louie – if you believe anything I’ve said is untrue, please let me know specifically.

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      • Open Minded Dem says

        Sour grapes. Gahler lost. That’s it. So super simple even you can wrap your head around it.

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  3. Trish says

    It doesn’t make sense that Bane would have this released right before the election, but it does sound like someone is using it for political gain..possible Gahler’s camp? And just because Bane hand picked Forwood for the job, does not make Bane a bad person, it means that Bane also was fooled by a person that did his job well in the department and through out the years of service that he gave to the sheriff’s department. If Forwood is indeed found guilty, is this REALLY Bane’s fault? Can any of us really blame Bane for this? How about when we go to the polls and vote in these crooked politicians and send them to Washington and they rob the American people blind? Who is to blame for that?
    I think that if Forwood is found guilty of the charges, that it is a shame that this guy gave up his whole career for theft between $1,000 –$10,0000….Really…was it worth it? And place the blame where it belongs…on the person that made the choice to do wrong! Oh by the way…I am a republican!

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    • says

      Trish,

      Bane is not a bad person. He was wrong to have kept Major Forwood on the payroll at taxpayer expense, and when asked why, responded that Forwood was protected by LEOBR. People keep saying that Forwood is innocent until proven guilty (which of course is true), but that has nothing to do with Forwoods employment or pay status as the grade of Major in HCSO is an exempt position with regard to LEOBR.

      Now that Forwood is being charged (and still innocent until proven guilty) lets see if Sheriff Bane continues to keep Major Forwood on in a full pay status. My guess is that the Sheriff will change Forwoods suspension to “without pay”, let him hang around awhile longer to increase Forwoods years of service toward retirement, and then when Forwood is found guilty in court, the Sheriff will fire him or Forwood will resign.

      All of this does not make Sheriff Bane a “bad” person. It does however, in my opinion, mean that Sheriff Bane could have made much better choices in how he handled this matter.

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      • Jughead says

        Retired, I have a question for you. You say he isn’t covered by LEOBR. What’s the worst that could happen prior to being criminally charged? If you bust him down to Lieutenant, and promote a major, and if he is found not guilty, then what?

        He can’t be outright fired, even though Major serves at the pleasure of the Sheriff, demotion to Lt. and then LEOBR starts. Either way he is still getting paid, there is now way around it.

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        • says

          Jughead,

          What says that he can’t be outright fired? Please cite what would prohibit that. Are you saying that the Maryland LEOBR law provides for a reduction in grade to Lt, but prohibits outright dismissal for grades above Lieutenant unless you are found guilty of misconduct. Captain Mills, who was outright fired by Sheriff Meadows when Meadows took office would be interested in knowing how that could not happen.

          Officers accepting senior command positions within the HCSO know, or should know, that these positions are not protected by LEOBR.

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  4. Hoyt Corkins Jr. says

    Please stop using that innocent-until-proven-guilty term. If one is guilty, one is guilty. The only place where there is the presumption of innocence is in a court of law…certainly not in the court of public opinion. You don’t know what actually happened and neither do I.

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  5. rightur says

    Let me make sure I got this right. Bane himself selects this person to keep us safe. Instead of doing his job, he is involved in this theft scheme, but no blame should go Bane’s way?????? No wonder O’Bama is your party’s shining star.

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    • fats says

      and selling some of the stuff he stole on ebay in his office which is 2 doors away from Bane, on the agency computer. They confiscated his computer at the very beginning of the suspiciously lengthy investigation.

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      • Open Minded Dem says

        There is seriously no pleasing any of you Bane-bashers. There is an ongoing investigation. No one in the public has any knowledge of the details surrounding this so while I’m sure that you are all ‘experts,’ please leave the policing to the police.

        And I don’t know what the hell the President has to do with any of this. Seems like some people simply cannot come to grips with us having an African-American President. You are all so very sad.

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