Catherine Pugh (D-MD), the former mayor of Baltimore who resigned in disgrace six months ago, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax evasion on Thursday afternoon.
Prosecutors say that Pugh, with the help of a legislative aide, used her “Healthy Holly” children’s book series to defraud customers and resell books for her own personal and political gain, according to the indictment released Wednesday. An “overwhelming” number of the books were not sold to laypersons or vendors, but to nonprofit organizations, “many of whom did business with the Maryland State government and Baltimore City.”
As the New York Times notes, “Most of the ‘Healthy Holly’ books, promoting healthy eating and exercise habits, were never distributed to children as had been promised, the authorities said. Instead, thousands of copies were found in a Baltimore City Public School System warehouse; others were stored in Ms. Pugh’s offices and in one of her houses.”
In total, Pugh received “at least” $600,000 for selling and reselling the books since 2011, reports the Times.
Pugh apologized for the book deals at a press conference back in March, as previously reported by the Daily Wire. “I sincerely want to say that I apologize that I have done something to upset the people of Baltimore,” said Pugh. “I never intended to do anything that could not stand up to scrutiny.”
According to the Baltimore Sun,“the terms of Pugh’s plea deal were not entirely known, though some legal experts said it could involve cooperation on her part with federal authorities in exchange for leniency.”
During a press conference Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur called attention to the damage Pugh has caused the city of Baltimore. “There are many victims in this case,” said Hur, according to WTOP, a Washington, DC-based news agency.
“The victims are all of us: the taxpayers and the people of Baltimore who expect and deserve integrity from their public officials,” said Hur. “The people of Baltimore expect, and they should expect, that elected officials place the interests of their citizens above their own.”
Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) also issued a statement, saying “the people of Baltimore, and all Marylanders, should be able to have confidence in the honesty and character of the people they elect to office,” reports Fox News Baltimore. “It is completely unacceptable any time a public official violates the public trust.”
Pugh is the second mayor of Baltimore to be indicted in the past decade. As the New York Times reported in 2009, Mayor Sheila Dixon (D-MD) was “accused of stealing gift cards donated to to the city for needy families and failing to report trips, fur coats and other luxuries paid for by a local developer who was her former boyfriend.”
Dixon resigned as mayor after being convicted of embezzlement, and was succeeded by city council president Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Dixon later tried to run for mayor after Rawlings-Blake declined to seek re-election in 2016, but was unsuccessful.
Pugh will be sentenced in February 2020.