John M. Staubitz Jr., former deputy Maryland health secretary, was declared a fugitive yesterday after he failed to appear for sentencing on a conspiracy conviction stemming from the State Games scandal.
Staubitz, who abruptly pleaded guilty in May after claiming that someone had tried to kill him, was to have been sentenced by Baltimore Circuit Judge Andre M. Davis. Judge Davis waited an hour before issuing an arrest warrant for the man who was once second-in-command of Maryland's $2-billion-a-year health / department.
Prosecutors, who are seeking a two-year prison term and $30,000 restitution, say that Staubitz billed the state for such personal expenses as vacations, country club fees and an Ocean City condominium and lied to legislators deciding the future of the State Games program.
Some of the money he used for personal expenses allegedly came from funds allocated for the State Games program, an arm of the health department established to promote amateur athletics.
His lawyers said Staubitz was last seen by his family at 11 a.m. Sunday at his Catonsville home.
Deputies from the city Sheriff's Department began looking for Staubitz yesterday afternoon after they received an arrest warrant issued six hours earlier by Judge Davis.
David L. Deangelis, chief deputy sheriff, said Staubitz was driving his mother-in-law's car when he disappeared Sunday. He said deputies would begin their search at the fugitive's Catonsville home.
But he added, "He could be sitting in a 7-Eleven, drinking a cup of coffee, scared -- or worse."
Michael A. Zwaig, an assistant attorney general prosecuting the case, said members of his agency would continue their efforts to find Staubitz.
"We've checked out a number of places. We've called hospitals, we've called the morgue," Mr. Zwaig said. "We're going to contact some of the people he was close with."
"None of us can understand his lack of appearance," defense lawyer Stuart R. Berger told Judge Davis yesterday, suggesting that his client might have fallen victim to circumstances beyond his control.
Staubitz's parents and wife were in court, but they left without commenting.
Yesterday afternoon, several cars were parked outside the Staubitz home, the last house on a dead-end street.
A woman who identified herself as "a friend" answered the door and said the family had heard nothing from Mr. Staubitz and would have no comment. Recently, she said, he was "not acting himself" and was "disturbed" and "very quiet."
But a neighbor, who declined to give her name, said Mr. Staubitz had seemed his usual "upbeat, pleasant" self when she chatted with him as he mowed the lawn one day last week.
A gray-haired man whom a neighbor said was John Staubitz's father would not stop to talk as he left the house, got into a car and drove off. "Leave him alone," he called pleasantly through the car window to a reporter.
Asked if he was worried about his son, the man smiled and said, "Nah."