Catherine Pugh, the former mayor of Baltimore, was sentenced to three years in prison on federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges centered on her self-published children’s book series.
Before her sentence was handed down, Pugh, 69, tearfully apologized “to anyone I have offended or hurt through my actions” and asked Judge Deborah K. Chasanow to show mercy. Pugh said although she had “turned a blind eye” and “sanctioned things I should not have,” she never intended to harm anyone, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Chasanow called Pugh’s crimes “astounding” and said she took advantage of her office to mislead organizations into buying her “Healthy Holly” books.
“I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense,” Chasanow said, according to The Baltimore Sun. “This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment. This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly, I think, are extremely, extremely serious.”
Pugh, who had previously served elected positions in Baltimore for more than 20 years, sold her children’s books to non-profits and foundations, in part to help fund her political career.
The most egregious was a no-bid deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where Pugh sold 100,000 copies of her books for $500,000, reported The Sun. At the time, Pugh also sat on the board of directors for the medical system. Prosecutors said she sold more than $850,000 in books in total.
In addition to the three-year prison sentence, Chasanow sentenced Pugh to three years of probation. The judge also ordered Pugh to pay $400,000 in restitution to the medical system and nearly $12,000 to the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund, which also bought some of Pugh’s books. The court will also seize nearly $670,000 from Pugh, which includes her Ashburton home and $17,800 from her campaign account, and the remaining of her “Healthy Holly” books were ordered destroyed.
Pugh’s attorney, Steve Silverman, said the sentence was fair and thinks Pugh will be out of prison in about 18 months, under the new First Step Act, which strives to reduce the federal prison population.
Pugh seemed stunned by the verdict, according to The Baltimore Sun. More than 70 people had written letters to Chasanow on her behalf, including former Democratic Mayor Kurt Schmoke, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, and Morgan State University President David Wilson.
Pugh wasn’t imprisoned right away. She has until mid-April to report.