Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Charged With Fraud, Tax Evasion, and Conspiracy in “Healthy Holly” Children’s Book Scandal

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.
Andre Chung / for NBC News file

Federal prosecutors have charged former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh with 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy in what they allege was a corrupt scheme involving her sales of a self-published children’s book series.

In a grand jury indictment made public Wednesday, prosecutors allege Pugh defrauded area businesses and nonprofit organizations with nearly $800,000 in sales of her “Healthy Holly” books to unlawfully enrich herself, promote her political career and illegally fund her campaign for mayor.

Though her customers ordered more than 100,000 copies of the books, the indictment says Pugh failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold others and took some to use for self-promotion. Pugh, 69, used the profits to buy a house, pay down debt, and make illegal straw donations to her campaign, prosecutors allege.

At the same time, prosecutors said, she was evading taxes. In 2016, for instance, when she was a state senator and ran for mayor, she told the Internal Revenue Service she had made just $31,000. In fact, her income was more than $322,000 that year ― meaning she shorted the federal government of about $100,000 in taxes, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The charges Pugh faces carry potential sentences totaling 175 years in prison. Prosecutors are seeking to seize $769,688 of her profits, along with her current home in Ashburton, which they allege she bought and renovated with fraudulently obtained funds.

The former Democratic mayor is expected turn herself in to U.S. marshals and appear Thursday in U.S. District Court in downtown Baltimore.

“There are many victims in this case,” U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said. “The victims are all of us. The taxpayers. The people of Baltimore who expect and deserve integrity from their public officials.”

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SOURCE: The Baltimore Sun, Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector