Isabel Mercedes Cumming is the new Inspector General for Baltimore. She filed her first criminal case since taking office in February. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)
A former Baltimore housing investigator whose job it was to bust people illegally dumping trash has been charged with illegally accessing computer databases to look into people tied to his estranged wife.
The case against Shawn Kolego of Perry Hall is the first criminal prosecution initiated by Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming since she took over the office in February. The post had been vacant for more than a year before Cumming arrived promising to reinvigorate an office tasked with investigating fraud and abuse by city employees.
She declined to comment on the charges against Kolego but told the City Council during a budget hearing this week that her office already has received more hotline tips since February than it got in all of 2017.
Kolego, who lives in Perry Hall, was charged on May 16 with 14 counts of exceeding his authorized access to a computer system and a single count of committing “a wrongful and improper act in the performance of his official duties.”
The Inspector General’s office alleges that Kolego, 39, researched four people associated with his estranged wife in the Motor Vehicle Administration database in 2017. Kolego also is charged with using a private database he had access to as part of his job to carry out more personal searches.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Housing and Community Development said Kolego left the agency in February. He had been employed by the city since 2009 and had attained praise for his work, official salary records show.
Kolego has been involved in dozens of littering and dumping prosecutions in recent years, court records show. In 2013, his work on a hazardous waste case was acknowledged by the Maryland Attorney General’s office and in 2017 he received an award from the Baltimore Health Department for his contributions to public health.
Kolego criticized the inspector general’s office.
“They didn’t do a very good job about their investigation,” he said in a brief interview before referring questions to his attorney, Tyler Mann.
Mann said that the case appears to have been pushed forward by Kolego’s estranged wife.
“It appears that most of the evidence comes from his ex-wife,” Mann said. “I’m very much looking forward to defending this case.”
Charging documents in the case don’t spell out why investigators began looking into Kolego’s use of the databases.
Witnesses told the inspector general’s investigators that at the time he was researching people in MVA records, Kolego was “involved in a marital and legal dispute with his estranged wife,” the charging document states.
In November, he allegedly looked up his mother in the system, the document states.
“The Defendant’s Baltimore City supervisor confirmed that the MVA searches that the Defendant conducted on these individuals were not related to his official duties,” prosecutors wrote in the charging document.
Investigators say they also found evidence that Kolego improperly used a database called Accurint, which is managed by a private company. He carried out searches connected to himself, his estranged wife and other people connected to his family, according to the charging document.
Kolego is scheduled to appear in court on June 18.