Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged On 11 Counts Of Fraud, Tax Evasion In Book Scandal, Faces Up To 175 Years In Prison

Written by Dana Sanchez
Federal prosecutors have charged former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh with 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy over lucrative book deals. Pugh is pictured on the Maryland House of Delegates chamber floor before Gov. Larry Hogan’s annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Annapolis, Md., Jan. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Federal prosecutors have charged former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, 69, with 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy over lucrative book deals for her self-published Healthy Holly children’s series.

The charges carry potential sentences totaling 175 years in prison. Prosecutors want to seize $769,688 of her profits, along with a home which they allege she bought and renovated with funds obtained fraudulently.

Prosecutors allege that Pugh defrauded nonprofits and area businesses of almost $800,000 in sales of her books. She enriched herself unlawfully, promoting her political career and illegally funding her campaign for mayor, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland.

Customers ordered more than 100,000 copies of Pugh’s books, but the indictment says she failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold others and took some to use for self-promotion, according to the Baltimore Sun. She used the profits to buy a house, pay down debt, and make illegal donations to her campaign, prosecutors allege.

She also evaded taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service. For example, as a state senator running for mayor in 2016, she told the IRS that she had earned $31,000. The IRS says her income was more than $322,000 that year, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Pugh took an indefinite paid leave of absence on April 1, citing health reasons. She had pneumonia and was hospitalized for five days at the end of March. The federal government raided two of Pugh’s homes, her City Hall office and other locations. Pugh resigned a week later in May after reports of self-dealing with companies connected to state and city government.

Although she has not been charged with a crime at the time, Pugh apologized. “I am sorry for the harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of the mayor,” Pugh said in a letter read by her lawyer Steve Silverman.

Most of Pugh’s books were marketed and sold directly to nonprofits and foundations that did business or wanted to do business with the state and city of Baltimore, prosecutors allege.

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Two of Pugh’s associates — Roslyn Wedington, the director of a nonprofit Pugh championed and Gary Brown Jr., a longtime aide — agreed to plead guilty in the investigation.

“Our elected officials must place the interests of the citizens above their own,” U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in a statement. “Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government.”

The irony of that statement was not lost on Twitter users.

“Seems like everyone BUT the President of the United States and his cabinet is held accountable these days,” one person tweeted.