News and Commentary

UPDATE: Baltimore Mayor Sentenced To Multiple Years Behind Bars For Children’s Book Scam
Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh leaves the federal courthouse after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion related to her Healthy Holly books on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images

After pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax evasion in November, former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has finally learned her fate. On Thursday, Pugh was sentenced to three years in prison in connection to her infamous “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal, which brought yet more national attention on the embattled city and ultimately resulted in the Democratic mayor resigning in disgrace last May.

After federal prosecutors recommended five years behind bars for Pugh, U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow ruled Thursday that Pugh, 69, would serve three years in prison and an additional three years of supervised released.

“The disgraced former mayor was also ordered to pay $411,948 in restitution and to forfeit $669,688, including property in Baltimore and $17,800 from her Committee to Re-elect Catherine Pugh,” NBC News reported Thursday.

After being elected in 2016, Pugh quickly came under scrutiny for multiple lucrative deals involving her children’s book, “Healthy Holly.” Pugh’s nonprofit ended up receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from multiple city and state contractors from the book deals. The scheme, prosecutors say, benefited Pugh both financially and politically.

After the sentencing Thursday, U.S. Attorney Robert Hur slammed Pugh’s lawyers for attempting to portray her crimes as victimless. “The victims in a case like this … are all of us, the people and the city of Baltimore, the taxpayers who expect, and they should expect, and they should demand, integrity,” said Hur, as reported by NBC News.

After every member of the Baltimore City Counsel demanded her resignation, Pugh resigned in May. In November, Pugh pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. In a sentencing memorandum filed two weeks ago, federal prosecutors laid out the long list of crimes they say Pugh committed over multiple years, including fraud, tax evasion, cover-ups and “brazen lies to the public.”

“The blistering, 37-page sentencing memorandum, accompanied by financial records and copies of checks, for the first time pinpointed the number of ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s books Pugh sold — and re-sold,” The Baltimore Sun reported at the time. “It outlined her efforts to conceal her dealings, including lying to FBI agents who came to her house to seize her cellphone.”

The sentencing memorandum, signed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martin J. Clarke and Leo J. Wise, presented a damning account of Pugh’s actions. “The chronology of events since 2011, comprising Pugh’s seven-year scheme to defraud, multiple years of tax evasion, election fraud, and attempted cover-ups, including brazen lies to the public, clearly establishes the deliberateness with which she pursued financial and political gain without a second thought about how it was harming the public’s trust,” read the memo.

The former mayor’s actions reveal “a recurring pattern of well-executed steps that built on each other, becoming more audacious and complex leading up to the mayoral election,” the prosecutors stated.

Prosecutors say that Pugh orchestrated a multi-stage scheme in which she resold over 132,000 copies of her children’s book for nearly $860,000. About 94% of the book sales, or around $805,000 worth, was brought in through deals with “corporate book purchasers with an interest in obtaining or maintaining a government contract,” as noted by The Baltimore Sun.

“Among the accusations is Pugh’s failure to disclose book deals worth hundreds of thousands to the Senate before becoming mayor, among them her $500,000 deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, for which she served on its volunteer board,” the Daily Wire reported.

Related: Federal Prosecutors Recommend Hard Time For Ex-Baltimore Mayor, Reveal New Details On Children’s Book Scandal