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Judge sentences Pugh to three years in federal prison

Posted at 12:52 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 07:17:09-05

BALTIMORE — A Federal Judge in Baltimore has sentenced former Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh to three years in prison, followed by another three years of probation.

Pugh was also ordered to pay $411,948 in restitution and to forfeit $669,688 including property on Ellamont Road in Baltimore and $17,800 from the Committee to Re-elect Catherine Pugh.

A grand jury indicted Pugh on November 14. She pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and two counts of tax evasion.

The charges stem from Pugh's Healthy Holly book scandal, which led to her resignation as Mayor in May.

RELATED: Former Mayor Catherine Pugh indicted on federal wire fraud charges

After her sentencing, Pugh said in part, "I don't think this is the last chapter of Catherine Pugh. I look forward to regaining my strength, my zeal, and my love for the people of the city."

Pugh also stated, “Sometimes when you think you’re doing one thing, as my mother used to say, it’s not what you intend to do, it’s what you do. And all of us pay the price for the things that don’t turn out the way they should turn out.”

Federal Prosecutors were asking for a 5-year sentence, while Pugh's lawyers asked for only a year behind bars followed by probation. Several local and state leaders also wrote letters to the judge asking for a more lenient sentence. Just last night, attorney's for Pugh released a video of the former Mayor apologizing for her actions.

On Thursday in court, prosecutors questioned the video's release and said it was just another way for Pugh to manipulate her message.

“Baltimore City faces many pressing issues, and we need our leaders to place the interests of the citizens above their own,” said United States Attorney Robert K. Hur. “Catherine Pugh betrayed the public trust for her personal gain and now faces three years in federal prison, where there is no parole—ever. Law enforcement will remain vigilant to ensure that our citizens receive the honesty and professionalism they deserve from government officials and will prosecute officials who betray the public’s trust.”

“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 Baltimore Division of the FBI. “The public has a right to expect and demand honesty and integrity from their public servants and the FBI stands ready with our law enforcement partners to uphold those principals in our system.”

Prosecutors argued how Pugh "engaged in a multidimensional scheme to defraud that spanned more than seven years," and "corruptly solicited funds from purchasers doing business with State and City Government."

In their sentencing recommendation, prosecutors described how Pugh "laundered proceeds of the scheme to defraud through her publishing business to fund straw donations to her Mayoral Campaign."

Pugh solicited three different checks totaling $170,000 in illegal campaign contributions from book purchasers, all while failing to report the income to the IRS. Most of the money was donated by businessman J.P. Grant.

One of the three checks was for $20,000 and funneled through 2 Chic Boutique, a Baltimore based women's consignment shop owned by Pugh and co-owned by City Comptroller Joan Pratt. Prior to the donation, the business had only $961 in their account and afterwards, a negative balance.

On April 25, FBI agents raided Pugh's Ashburton home and City Hall office.

Prosecutors revealed how Pugh tried hiding her personal cell phone from federal agents who were serving a search and seizure warrant at her home.

She lied and told agents she only had her City phone, but when agents called the personal number it vibrated from her bedroom.

Prosecutors also detailed the lengths Pugh went to in order to buy the silence of her co-conspirator Gary Brown, who was a major player in carrying out straw purchases tied to the Healthy Holly scandal.

Brown has also been indicted and pleaded guilty to similar charges, in connection to his work with Pugh. A sentencing date for Brown has not been scheduled as of yet.

Pugh is also facing state perjury charges related to Healthy Holly.

To read more on the Healthy Holly scandal, click here.

You can re-watch our coverage on the Pugh sentencing below.