FORMER Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday for a fraud scheme involving a children’s book series.
U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow described Pugh’s crimes as “astounding” and said she took advantage of a career spent doing good works to mislead organizations who purchased her “Healthy Holly” books.
Pugh, 69, tearfully asked Chasanow for mercy and apologized in court anyone she had offended or hurt through her actions.
She said she had turned a blind eye and sanctioned things she should not have, adding that she did not intend to cause harm.
Pugh’s fall began when newspaper reports revealed she had entered into a no-bid deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where Pugh sat on the board of directors, to buy 100,000 copies of her sloppily self-published “Healthy Holly” books for $500,000.
She later resigned from the board and as mayor amid multiple investigations into her finances and the book sales.
Prosecutors said she netted more than $850,000, in total.
After the sentence was handed down, Pugh stood and appeared stunned and forlorn. Supporters came to the courtroom floor to console her.
The sentence fell between prosecutors’ request for nearly five years and the defense request a year and a day in prison. In addition to a three-year prison sentence, Chasanow sentenced Pugh to three years of probation.
Pugh had more than 70 people write letters to Chasanow on her behalf. They included a slew of prominent pastors, former Democratic Mayor Kurt Schmoke, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume and Morgan State University President David Wilson.
Pugh held elected offices in Baltimore for two decades and was elevated by voters to lead the city after the upheaval of 2015.