Baltimore, MD – Disgraced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday in connection with her “Healthy Holly” book scheme that funneled illegal money into her campaign and helped her evade taxes.
Pugh was also ordered to pay $669,000 in restitution, WBAL reported.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence the former mayor to almost five years in prison and called her crimes “a recurring pattern of well-executed steps that built on each other, becoming more audacious and complex leading up to the mayoral election,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
“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,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martin J. Clarke and Leo J. Wise wrote in their sentencing recommendation to the court.
Prior to making her plea agreement, Pugh was facing up to 175 years in prison if she was convicted of the charges against her, according to The Baltimore Sun.
But a sentencing memorandum submitted to the court by Pugh’s attorneys argued that the beleaguered former politician had already suffered enough and that prosecutors were asking too much with five years, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Pugh’s attorney argued that a sentence of one year and one day in prison would be more than enough additional punishment.
“Ms. Pugh has become a tragic figure — an inspiring person dedicated to helping her community who is now a disgraced, unemployed felon, and who has lost everything that she had,” the sentencing memo read. “Such a sentence, coupled with the loss of her entire career, the public dishonor, and serious economic loss that she has and will continue to suffer, would result in a significant punishment for Ms. Pugh’s actions.”
In three redacted pages of the memo, Pugh’s attorneys detailed the impact her arrest has had on her mental health and highlighted the fact the prison system is ill-prepared to deal with the elderly and mentally infirm, the Baltimore Sun reported.
On Wednesday, Pugh’s legal team released a video they had submitted to the court that featured a 13-minute apology that highlighted the former mayor’s accomplishments for the city and the civil rights movement, FOX News reported.
The bizarre video showed Pugh telling her life story and featured luminaries giving her accolades as a sort of excuse for her behavior.
But Maryland’s U.S. District Court Judge Deborah K. Chasanow was not impressed.
Chasanow called it “ironic” because “it was precisely that reputation for good work that allowed her to commit these offenses and continue the fraud for as long as she did,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
“It is astounding and 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.”
Chasanow ordered the disgraced former politician to pay restitution to entities that purchased her books, including $400,000 to the University of Maryland Medical System and almost $12,000 to the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund, the FOX News reported.
The judge also ordered Pugh to forfeit nearly $670,000.
About $17,800 of that money was in the former mayor’s campaign account and the rest equals the cost of a home she purchased in the tony Ashburton neighborhood after she was elected, FOX News reported.
Chasanow also ordered the government to destroy any remaining copies of “Heathy Holly” books that remained in their custody.
Pugh, a 69-year-old Democrat, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of tax evasion, and seven counts of wire fraud in connection with her series of “Healthy Holly” books on Nov. 13, 2019, WBAL reported.
“She lied to the IRS in order to pay less in taxes,” U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said. “She violated Maryland state election law which prohibits someone from making a campaign contribution in someone else’s name.”
Hur said that the disgraced former mayor’s actions victimized Baltimore’s taxpayers, according to WBAL.
“The victims are all of us, the taxpayers and the people of Baltimore who expect and deserve integrity from their public officials,” he said. “The people of Baltimore expect – and they should expect – that elected officials place the interests of their citizens above their own.”
Pugh also allegedly defrauded the Baltimore public school system and health care companies by failing to deliver books they paid for, according to The New York Times.
In some cases, she accepted payment for thousands of books that were never even printed, prosecutors said.
According to the indictment, Pugh received nearly $800,000 for her books, both before and after she was elected as mayor, The Washington Post reported.
“Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government,” Hur said, according to The New York Times.