BALTIMORE – Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is facing federal chargesrelated to what prosecutors say was a plot to enrich herself through sales of her self-published children’s book series, according to a grand jury indictment made public Wednesday.
Pugh, 69, is expected to self-surrender to U.S. Marshals Thursday before her first court appearance before U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, according to a news release.
“Our elected officials must place the interests of the citizens above their own,” U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in a statement. “Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government.”
The former mayor, who resigned her position in May amid the book sale controversy, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of tax evasion. The indictment was returned Nov. 14.
Prosecutors say Pugh, who became Baltimore’s 50th mayor on Dec. 6, 2016, used her “Healthy Holly” book series in order to fund her lifestyle in addition to her political campaign and political interests. She allegedly bought a house and paid down personal debt with the profits, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The book scheme allegedly involved Pugh failing to print thousands of copies or double-selling titles in the series, the Sun reported. Prosecutors also allege Pugh listed her 2016 income as $31,000 when it actually exceeded $322,000.
“Our elected officials must place the interests of the citizens above their own. Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government.”
– Robert K. Hur, U.S. Attorney
In April, Pugh announced she was taking an indefinite leave of absence after she had been “advised by her physicians that she needs to take time to recover and focus on her health.” She said she felt like she wasn’t able to fulfill her obligations as mayor because of her deteriorating health brought on by a recent case of pneumonia.
Ultimately, Pugh resigned amid state and federal investigations about her book series, and apologized “for the harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and to the credibility of the office of the mayor.”
Pugh was the third Baltimore mayor to face sustained calls to resign. Bernard “Jack” Young took her place.
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Pugh came to office in late 2016 after edging out ex-Mayor Sheila Dixon, who spent much of her own tenure fighting corruption charges before being forced to depart office in 2010 as part of a plea deal connected to the misappropriation of about $500 in gift cards meant for needy families.
Former Baltimore city employees Gary Brown Jr. and Roslyn Wedington pleaded guilty to charges related to Pugh’s, it was also revealed Wednesday.
UPDATE: One day after the charges were made public, Pugh pleaded guilty to four of the charges as part of a plea deal to get the other charges dropped, according to The New York Times.