Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges of conspiracy and tax evasion related to sales of her children’s book Healthy Holly, and pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, just a day after she was indicted.
In deals first exposed by The Baltimore Sun, Pugh sold her poorly-published book, which contained multiple grammatical and spelling mistakes, to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) while she sat on the System’s board. Pugh made a $500,000 profit from the sales.
Health insurance provider Kaiser Permanente also paid Pugh $100,000 for thousands of copies of the book while simultaneously seeking a contract to insure Baltimore city employees.
The details of the plea deal were not immediately available.
David Jaros, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, told the Sun that Pugh may have accepted the plea deal to gain some advantage with authorities: “the one thing a criminal defendant can bring to the table is information about other criminal activity.” However, Jaros said it was also possible that Pugh “just wants to resolve the matter and move on with her life and face whatever consequences she’s going to face.”
Pugh used the proceeds from her book sales to fund straw donations for her political campaigns as well as to pay for a house.
Prosecutors said they had been building a case against Pugh for years before the Sun revealed allegations against the former mayor.
Pugh had originally called the investigations against her a “witch hunt.” Thursday marked the first time Pugh admitted to wrongdoing in the cases. It remains unclear what punishment she will receive, although a prison sentence is possible.