BALTIMORE, Md. – Isabel FitzGerald, age 52, of Annapolis, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to bribery involving an agent of a program receiving federal funds in relation to a scheme involving information technology contracts with the State of Maryland Department of Human Services. As part of her guilty plea, FitzGerald will be ordered to pay $38,310 in restitution.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
According to her guilty plea, from February 2007 to August 2013, FitzGerald held several offices in the Maryland State government, including serving as Chief Information Officer of the Department of Human Resources (DHR), as a consultant indirectly compensated by DHR, and as DHR Deputy Secretary of Operations.
While employed as a government agent, from December 2011 to January 2013, FitzGerald received financial benefits from two senior members of an IT Company (Company 2) in exchange for influence in connection with the performance of favorable official acts. In the process of influencing contracts, FitzGerald used her own company, Aeon Consulting and Technical Services, Inc., to facilitate contracts and favorable business dealings.
As stated in her plea agreement, in July 2011, FitzGerald entered into an agreement to work as a contractor for Company 3. Company 3 obtained a technology contract with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), an agency that received grant funding from DHR. In September 2011, FitzGerald agreed to work for Company 3 as a Project Manager on Company 3’s work in Montgomery County and submitted a letter of resignation to DHR indicating that her last official day would be October 14, 2011.
In October 2011, the CEO of Company 2 sought to gain favor with FitzGerald due to her previous role within DHR and her current role with Montgomery County DHHS. In the same month, the CEO and Company 2 agreed to pay FitzGerald through her company, Aeon, for purportedly providing the services of Person 2. Per the arrangement, FitzGerald and Aeon entered into contracts resulting in Aeon collecting a balance of $20 per hour worked by Person 2. This represented Company 2’s entire profit on its contract for the work of Person 2. Despite this arrangement, Person 2 continued to be supervised by Company 2 employees, not by FitzGerald.
After FitzGerald resigned from her position as DHR Chief Information Officer, an arrangement was made with senior officials of DHR and Montgomery County DHHS that permitted FitzGerald to continue to work for DHR within her new role at Montgomery County DHHS. FitzGerald acknowledges that she was aware that funding for her position would be paid by DHR and that she was an agent of the state. As a result of this agreement, FitzGerald agreed to work 20 hours per week for the benefit of DHR, with the ability to work up to 40 hours per week for the benefit of DHR. In return, DHR increased its grant funds to Montgomery County DHHS for the rate of $110 per hour worked by FitzGerald. As a result, FitzGerald continued to exercise influence over the business of DHR in a consultant compacity.
After the CEO of Company 2 contacted FitzGerald and requested her assistance in maintaining Company 2’s business in the state of Maryland, FitzGerald and the CEO negotiated an agreement in which FitzGerald would be compensated for her influence to obtain work for Company 2. FitzGerald did not divulge the existence of this arrangement to any employees of DHR, to include the Secretary of DHR or the Acting CIO, even after she took on the role of a consultant compensated indirectly by DHR.
Later, after FitzGerald learned that she had been named Deputy Secretary of Operations of DHR, FitzGerald the CEO of Company 2 to transfer the contract for Person 2 to Kenneth Coffland, with whom she shared a close personal relationship.
The total amount of the bribe FitzGerald received was $35,000. She also directed an additional $3,080 to Coffland. Co-defendant Coffland was indicted on charges related to the bribery conspiracy in 2017, and a separate charge of extortion under color of official right in 2018 and is scheduled for trial on June 21, 2022. An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
FitzGerald faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for bribery involving an agent of a program receiving federal funds. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm has scheduled sentencing for October 13, 2022, at 9:30 a.m.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean R. Delaney and Jefferson M. Gray, who are prosecuting the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.