Political News

Prosecutors propose nearly 5-year sentence for ex-Baltimore mayor in children's book deal

Posted February 13, 2020 5:47 p.m. EST

— Prosecutors on Thursday called for former Democratic Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to be sentenced to 57 months in prison, the maximum possible sentence for charges stemming from a book-deal scandal that led to her resignation last May.

"The maximum sentence within the applicable guideline range provides an adequate and just punishment for Pugh's longstanding pattern of criminal conduct and serves to deter other would-be corrupt politicians from breaching the public's trust," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday.

Pugh's transgressions dating back several years emerged during the months-long scandal over her self-published "Healthy Holly" books, which prosecutors said she fraudulently sold to local nonprofit organizations in order to fund her campaign and enrich herself.

The Baltimore Sun previously reported the sentencing request.

In November, Pugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of tax evasion. She pleaded not guilty to seven counts of wire fraud.

Pugh's sentencing recommendation takes into account only one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. It was expected that the government would drop the remaining charges at sentencing.

The indictment against Pugh alleged that she and her long-standing legislative and campaign adviser, Gary Brown, solicited nonprofit organizations and foundations -- chief among them, the University of Maryland Medical Center -- to buy her books, which promote healthy living among children.

But prosecutors said that in some cases, the books were never delivered, while in others, the pair delivered the books and then converted them to their own use without the buyers' knowledge, or double-sold books, profiting from the purchases.

"The defendant's scheme to defraud is remarkable in both its scope and duration," prosecutors wrote in their sentencing request. "Unlike some convicted fraudsters, Pugh's decision to con book purchasers was not an impulsive one, nor the desperate act of someone facing financial ruin. Rather, it was a well-considered business decision to achieve multiple ends."

They pointed to her educational background and political success, alleging that she had exploited her stature "by specifically seeking out potential buyers who might benefit financially if Pugh was politically successful, thus corruptly leveraging her political title and government office."

While "Pugh's conduct unquestionably added to the City's problems," prosecutors note, they argue that "the greatest harm is the damage done to the public's trust and faith in its government," and the biggest victim "is the citizens of Baltimore and the State of Maryland whose faith and trust in government has been breached."

Pugh's sentencing hearing is slated for February 27 at 10 a.m., the memorandum states.

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