Former Baltimore Mayor Pleads Guilty to 4 Federal Charges Related to Book Scam

November 21, 2019 Updated: November 21, 2019

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty to several federal charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, and two counts of tax evasion.

She was indicted on 11 charges and pleaded guilty to four of them, CBS Baltimore reported on Thursday. Authorities accused Pugh of allegedly participating in a scheme involving sales of “Healthy Holly,” her children’s book series.

“I would say this is a significant betrayal of the public’s trust, and it is absolutely not what we need from our leaders to address the significant problems that Baltimore City is facing,” U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said following her pleas were entered, WBAL reported.

Her sentencing will be carried out on Feb. 27, 2020.

“This was a scheme that was sophisticated and complicated, and the people who were involved in the conspiracy, Mayor Pugh and Mr. (Gary) Brown, they took steps to conceal what was going on,” Hur added.

According to the report, she had no comment after pleading guilty.

Sales of the “Healthy Holly” book went to a charity where Pugh served on the board, said federal prosecutors, who also alleged that she disguised the proceeds as donations to her reelection campaign. They also said she used the money to help buy and renovate a home, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

In 2016, she was elected as mayor of Baltimore after gaining prominence amid “Black Lives Matter” protests over the 2015 deaths of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man, who was in police custody.

Pugh resigned earlier this year after public pressure mounted following reports published about the scandal.

“The indictment alleges, for the tax year 2016, Ms. Pugh claimed her taxable income was a little over $31,000 and the tax due was a little over $4,000, when in fact her taxable income was over $322,000 with an income tax due of approximately over $100,000. In other words, her taxable income was more than 10 times what she reported to the IRS for that year and she owed more than 20 times more in taxes than she actually paid for that year,” Hur said, reported WBAL.

Officials also alleged that she stashed books in her cars, her home, her offices, and at a local war memorial. She allegedly double-sold some of the books that went to local schools and failed to deliver others.

“From November 2011 until March 2019, Ms. Pugh conspired with Gary Brown to defraud purchases of ‘Healthy Holly’ books in order to enrich themselves, promote Ms. Pugh’s political career and fund her campaign for mayor,” Hur said. “Mr. Brown helped Ms. Pugh solicit nonprofit organizations and foundations to buy the ‘Healthy Holly’ books.”