Catherine Pugh, Former Baltimore Mayor, Is Sentenced to 3 Years in Book Fraud

Catherine Pugh, Former Baltimore Mayor, Is Sentenced to 3 Years in Book Fraud

Catherine Pugh, the former mayor of Baltimore, was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to federal crimes related to sales of a children’s book series she wrote.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow also ordered Ms. Pugh, a Democrat, to pay more than $400,000 in restitution and to forfeit nearly $700,000. She faces three years of supervised released once she completes her prison sentence.

“The defendant’s scheme to cheat the taxpayers of Baltimore was as bold as it was brazen, and today’s sentence shows that the punishment for those actions is swift and severe,” said Alfred Watson, assistant special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Baltimore field office.

In a video that her lawyers submitted to the judge late Wednesday, Ms. Pugh said she accepted full responsibility for her actions. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I messed up. I really messed up.”

Ms. Pugh, 69, resigned as Baltimore’s mayor last year after she became the target of state and federal investigations into bulk sales of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books. The books were sold to nonprofit organizations and foundations that did business or were seeking to do business with the City of Baltimore, federal prosecutors said.

She admitted to using the money to buy a second home in Baltimore and to fund her campaigns for mayor. She also admitted to using several methods to defraud health care companies, taxpayers and Baltimore’s school system starting in 2011, when she was a member of the Maryland Legislature.

In the apology video, which was shared by The Baltimore Sun and other news organizations, Ms. Pugh apologized to anyone she had offended or hurt, and for damage to the city’s image, as soft music played in the background.

“By being guilty and by being involved in all of this that has led me here today has created such a ringing negativity on our city,” she said in the 12-minute video.

In November, she pleaded guilty to four counts — wire fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the government, and two counts of tax evasion — as part of a plea agreement.

Ms. Pugh sold tens of thousands of copies of her books, most of which were marketed directly to nonprofit organizations and foundations rather than sold through retail or wholesale vendors. Federal prosecutors said that she frequently failed to deliver the books after accepting payments for them. At times, she sold copies of the same set of books to two different buyers so she could be paid twice.

Ms. Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” series centers on a girl focused on self-improvement. They promote healthy eating habits and regular exercise for children.

Officials said Ms. Pugh received more than $600,000 from the arrangement, with most of the money coming from businesses with ties to the city’s government.

Ms. Pugh’s resignation last year was a setback for the city, which has struggled with high levels of poverty and crime. A previous Baltimore mayor, Sheila Dixon, resigned in 2010 after she was found guilty of stealing gift cards intended for low-income residents.

“If there’s one thing I know about Baltimore, it’s that we are a resilient city,” Brandon M. Scott, the president of the Baltimore City Council, said in a statement on Thursday. “We don’t give up. Our city must not continue to be defined by unethical leadership.”

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