Friday, 28 February 2020

Democratic former Baltimore mayor sentenced to three years in prison over children's book scandal

A federal judge sentenced Baltimore's former Democratic mayor to three years in federal prison Thursday following what became a nationwide scandal involving her self-published children's book series.

According to the Baltimore Sun:
Pugh, 69, asked U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow for mercy and apologized in court "to anyone I have offended or hurt through my actions."

Outside the courthouse, Pugh again apologized to the people of Baltimore, stating "nobody loves Baltimore more than I do."

She also said that she had not intended any harm, but nonetheless would pay the price for her actions. She told reporters: "This is not the last you'll see of Catherine Pugh."
Chasanow had some harsh words for the former mayor in response and her crime.
"This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment," the judge said in the newspaper's report. "This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly I think are extremely, extremely serious."

Pugh's corruption saga began last spring when it was revealed that she had sold $500,000 of her "Healthy Holly" books to the University of Maryland Medical System — where she served as a board member while an elected official — over the course of several years. She also failed to report the sales of the books on ethics forms.

Following calls for her to step down, as well as IRS and FBI searches of her homes and offices, Pugh resigned the following May, saying in a statement that she was "sorry 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 eventually indicted on several federal fraud and tax evasion charges in November. Prosecutors accused her of accepting payments for books she never intended to deliver, and selling books to companies and nonprofits that either did business or were attempting to do business with the city of Baltimore. She would later plead guilty to four of the charges.

The books themselves became a point of ridicule for its sloppy publishing and numerous spelling and grammatical errors. The event became the subject of a segment of comedian John Oliver's HBO show "Last Week Tonight."

According to the Baltimore Sun, Pugh was also ordered to pay $400,000 restitution to the medical system and will have to forfeit her home, the Baltimore Sun reports. She has also agree to have all the book copies in government custody destroyed.

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