(ConservativePeak.com) – A former leading Democrat in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, is heading to prison.
After she pled guilty to conspiracy, tax evasion and fraud, Catherine Pugh, the former Democratic mayor of Baltimore, was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday. Pugh’s charges revolve around a scheme she concocted to use state contracts to purchase her children’s books, called “Healthy Holly,” which she then obviously profited from.
Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, of the U.S District Court, said at the sentencing:
“It is astounding and I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense. 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.”
Pugh recorded a video that was played by her attorneys in court, in which she apologized over and over again for doing harm to “the city’s image.” She further said:
“I messed up. I really messed up. I accept total responsibility. I pled guilty, and I’m sorry. I don’t know any other words that could be strong. I am so sorry.”
Pugh tries to defend her character in the video, not only providing biographic details about herself, but also getting statements from other prominent people to defend her character. One comment was from Rep. Elijah Cummings, who passed away last October at the age of 68, who spoke at Pugh’s inauguration as Baltimore mayor.
Chasanow characterized Pugh’s past service as “ironic,” as “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.”
Prosecutors in the case argued that Pugh should pay severely for the “brazen lies to the public.”
“It was not rash behavior,” the prosecutors said. “Rather, it was 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 newspaper uncovered Pugh’s complex scheme. She secured the purchase of literally hundreds of thousands of her books to a number of different businesses through state contracts. This included contracts with the University of Maryland medical system as well as health-care providers that had businesses in Baltimore.
Kaiser Permanente, for example, purchased 20,000 copies of her books, at a total cost of $114,000, between 2015 and 2018. In 2017, the company got a $48 million contract from Baltimore when Pugh was leading the city’s spending board.
In addition to being sentenced to three years in federal prison, Pugh must pay restitution of almost $12,000 to the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund and $400,000 to the University of Maryland Medical System. She was also made to forfeit almost $670,000 and from her campaign account $17,800.
Prosecutors in the case asked for a sentence of five years in federal prison, while Pugh’s attorneys requests a shorter sentence of 366 days. The judge met the two roughly in the middle.