The former mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, has just been sentenced for three years in federal prison for a book scheme. Pugh, who won the mayoral race and became the 50th mayor of Baltimore in 2016, resigned in May 2019 under pressure for her role in the scheme.
On November 20, 2019, a grand jury indicted Pugh on 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy, all relating to the book transactions of her Healthy Holly series. The next day, she signed a plea deal, pleading guilty to four counts: wire fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the government, and two counts of tax evasion.
On February 27, she was sentenced to three years in federal prison followed by three years of probation. The district judge, Deborah K. Chasanow, ordered Pugh to pay $412,000 in restitution and to forfeit $670,000, which includes her home and the remainder of her campaign account. All copies of Healthy Holly in the government’s possession are to be destroyed. This is a big fall for someone who had a long and active career in and out of politics.
Here’s what you need to know about Catherine Pugh:
1. She Arranged Fraudulent Sales of Her “Healthy Holly” Book Series to Fund Her Lifestyle & Political Career
Federal prosecutors said that her Healthy Holly books were sold to nonprofit organizations and foundations that were working with the city of Baltimore, and Pugh used her book sales to defraud taxpayers, health care companies, and the school system, going as far back as 2011.
She sold tens of thousands of books but rarely delivered them, instead keeping the profits and the books, and sold the same books to different buyers to get paid twice. Prosecutors also said that she made over $600,000 this way, most of this money coming from organizations and businesses who were involved in the city of Baltimore. This money was used to buy another home and finance her political aspirations.
Below is an apology video that her team released before her sentencing:
2. She Was the 50th Mayor of Baltimore From December 2016 Until Her Resignation in 2019
Pugh started her career in politics in 1999, when she was elected to city council. In 2005, she served in the Maryland House of Delegates and became a senator from 2007 to 2016, becoming the State Senate Majority Leader. She ran for mayor of Baltimore and won, becoming the 50th mayor in December 2016.
She faced a lot of issues as mayor, including the high crime level in the city, housing and development issues, and some transit problems. She faced criticism when she vetoed a bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In 2018, she sat down for an interview with Voice of America to discuss gun violence:
In the spring of 2019, details of her fraudulent activities were released and authorities investigated her book sales. She resigned as mayor under immense pressure on May 2, 2019.
3. She Had a Very Active Career Before Joining Politics & Running For Mayor
Pugh founded Baltimore’s first African American business newspaper and was also the dean and director of the Baltimore branch of Strayer Business College. In the early 2000s, she was also a key figure in setting up the annual Baltimore Marathon due to her love for running, as indicated in an online profile of Pugh. In 1988, she founded the public relations and consulting company C.E. Pugh & Company.
Her first position after graduating from university was with Equitable Trust Bank, where she held the position of branch manager trainee and eventually worked her way up to branch manager and credit analyst. She also became the co-owner of a high-end shop called 2 Chic Boutique and co-founded the Baltimore Design School.
4. She Was Born in Pennsylvania in 1950 & Grew Up in Philadelphia
According to a profile in a local Baltimore paper, Pugh was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on March 10, 1950. Her maiden name is Crump. Catherine Pugh grew up in Philadelphia with six siblings and graduated from Overbrook High School in Philadelphia in 1967. She then attended Morgan State University in Baltimore City, Maryland, where she earned a bachelor of science and a master of business administration.
According to her interview with Baltimore magazine, she said she was the second child of seven. Her father, James Crump, was a union laborer in a rubber factory and her mother, Addie Crump, was a homemaker who “ran a house full of love, but also full of discipline.”
5. She Is Divorced & Has No Children
She was married and divorced, and has no children. In an interview with Baltimore magazine, she said she “often describes herself as ‘married to the city.'” She shared that she lives in Ashburton and is very active, going for runs, playing gold, and taking long drives in her Jeep Cherokee.