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Former Baltimore Mayor Sentenced to Three Years in Prison over Children’s Book Fraud Scheme

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 sentenced to three years in federal prison on Thursday over a fraud scandal involving her children’s book series.

Last fall, Pugh obtained a plea deal with prosecutors that recommended she be sentenced to between four and five years in prison. Her sentence of three years, which will be followed by three years of probation, was between the nearly five years prosecutors requested and the year and one day her attorneys asked for.

“No one is more disappointed than me,” Pugh told the court, adding an apology “to anyone I have offended or hurt through my actions.”

“I did turn a blind eye. I did, and sanctioned many things I should not have,” she said.

Pugh, 69, came under fire for selling $500,000 in copies of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) while serving on its board. She also sold 20,000 copies of the books to Kaiser Permanente for $114,000 from 2015 to 2018, and 10,000 copies to Associated Black Charities for nearly $80,000 from 2011 and 2016, both of which deals raised questions regarding conflicts of interest. In all, she made $850,000, according to prosecutors.

The former mayor, who originally called investigations into her book deals a “witch hunt,” has since resigned her position as a UMMS board member, canceled that deal, and returned the last $100,000 payment from it to UMMS.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow called Pugh’s crimes “astounding” and ordered her to pay hundreds of thousands in fines to the medical system and other entities who purchased her books.

“I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense,” the judge said. “This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment. This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly I think are extremely, extremely serious.”

The former mayor resigned last May amid the mushrooming corruption scandal.

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