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Law & the Courts

Former Baltimore Mayor Charged with Fraud, Faces up to 20 Years in Prison

Then-state senator Catherine Pugh speaks during a TV interview near the City Hall in Baltimore, Md., in 2015. (File photo: Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Reuters)

Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh was indicted on Tuesday on multiple federal charges, including fraud and tax evasion.

In March, federal authorities began investigating allegations that Pugh made $500,000 from selling her children’s book Healthy Holly to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) while she was serving on the UMMS board. It was then revealed that health-insurance provider Kaiser Permanente had paid Pugh $100,000 for 20,000 copies of the book, at the same time the company was seeking a contract to insure city employees.

FBI and IRS agents raided Pugh’s home in April as part of their investigation into the former mayor’s dealings. Pugh resigned as mayor on May 2.

Pugh will be arraigned on Thursday in Washington, D.C., district court. She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted.

The indictment details how Pugh allegedly used the “proceeds of the sale of fraudulently obtained Healthy Holly books for her own purposes, including: to fund straw donations to Pugh’s mayoral election campaign; and to fund the purchase and renovation of a house in Baltimore City.” The books themselves were poorly published and contained numerous spelling and grammatical errors, including spelling the word “vegetable” as “vegetale.”

“The people of Maryland expect elected officials to make decisions based on the public’s best interests, not to abuse their office for personal gain,” read a statement from FBI special agent Jennifer Boone, who runs the agency’s Baltimore division. “The indictment alleges that Catherine Pugh betrayed the public’s trust.”

Pugh had originally called the investigation a “witch hunt” but apologized in her letter of resignation for the “harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of the mayor.”

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