Federal prosecutors have charged former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh with 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy for an alleged scheme related to the sales of her self-published children’s book series Healthy Holly. The grand jury indictment was made public Wednesday, accusing Pugh of unlawfully enriching herself by selling her children’s books to groups with business before the city and state, including the Baltimore school system, local corporations, and nonprofits. The nearly $800,000 she made went toward funding her campaign for mayor and promoting her political career. Two of her long-time associates have pleaded guilty in the scheme that allegedly began in 2011 and extended until Pugh’s resignation in May of this year.
The charges carry potential prison sentences totaling up to 175 years, and prosecutors aim to seize $769,688 of her profits, as well as her home in the Ashburton neighborhood of Baltimore, which they allege she fraudulently bought and renovated. The charges come more than six months after Pugh, who became Baltimore’s 50th mayor in 2016, resigned amid the scandal, which first came to light when investigators began probing the books she sold to the University of Maryland Medical System, where she served on the board of directors. The pretense of the sales were to provide Baltimore schoolchildren copies of the book free of charge. School officials, however, contend that they had not asked for the books, and only a small portion were actually distributed to elementary school students. The rest were stashed at various storage facilities, including the former mayor’s home, office, and campaign storage locker.