You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh sentenced in federal court

WBAL TV Baltimore logo WBAL TV Baltimore 2/28/2020

Video by CBS Baltimore

A federal judge sentenced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to three years in prison on fraud and tax evasion charges.

|| Sentencing Recommendations: Prosecution | Defense ||

Sign up for our Newsletters

|| See a timeline of the Catherine Pugh investigation ||

Pugh, 69, was sentenced Thursday to three years in federal prison and three years of probation for using fraudulent book sales to funnel illegal donations to her campaign and evade taxes. Pugh will report to prison in April.

The judge also ordered Pugh 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.

Pugh spoke after the hearing, the first time in public since March 2019.

"None of this was intentional, what it turned out to be, and today, I faced the justice system ... The first thing I should do is apologize to the citizens of Baltimore, who put their faith and trust in me as their mayor," Pugh said outside court after sentencing. "I will take those lessons with me. I will continue to listen, learn, and I don't think this is the last chapter for Catherine Pugh, and I look forward to regaining my strength, my zeal, my love for the people of this city."

Federal prosecutors took about 50 minutes to lay out their argument for Pugh to serve 57 months in federal prison for using a criminal "Healthy Holly" book-selling scheme to "rig an election and cover it up."

"Unfortunately, the type of fraud and public corruption that Ms. Pugh committed, and was sentenced to three years in federal prison for today, undermines everyone's faith in government and what government can do for the people," U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said after sentencing. "This is not a light sentence in my view and should not be regarded as such."

"This investigation was about a story of greed, a story of lying a story of deceit, and that's never acceptable under any circumstances," said Alfred Watson, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office.

"Today, Catherine Pugh learned the consequences of her actions. When those in positions of trust conspire to defraud the government and engage in corrupt ventures, they must be held accountable,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson. "We will continue to pursue justice against those whose actions deteriorate the confidence of the citizens that they were elected to serve."

Catherine Pugh et al. looking at a phone © Provided by WBAL TV Baltimore Catherine Pugh

VIDEO: U.S. attorney, FBI, IRS speak after sentencing

Prosecutors said an investigation into Pugh began in February 2017 based on accusations she used her children's books as a ruse to raise money for her mayoral campaign and a new house.

The case never went to trial and the government's 90-page filing was loaded with details of what likely would have been used against Pugh in court.

Although Pugh's lawyers acknowledged she agreed to sentencing guidelines of almost four to five years in prison when she pleaded guilty in November, they sought a sentence of one year and a day.

Pugh's defense attorneys opened their statement by calling her a broken woman. Her lawyers downplayed the crime, calling it a "one off," saying she got sucked into the culture of self-dealing among board members of the University of Maryland Medical System. Pugh served on the UMMS board. The system bought $500,000 worth of Pugh's books.

When asked whether UMMS was ever a focus of the investigation, Hur said, "I am not in a position to answer that at this time."

VIDEO: Pugh speaks outside court after sentencing hearing

Pugh said she turned a blind eye and overlooked some things, but nothing more specific to explain her conduct.

Judge Deborah Chasnow saw the case as a serious breach of trust.

"This wasn't tiny mistake. This became a very large fraud," she said.

In court, Pugh apologized and said she takes responsibility: "I did turn a blind eye ... No one is more disappointed than me."

Pugh spoke outside court for her love of Baltimore City.

"I don't wish this on anybody. Again, (I'm) apologetic to the citizens of Baltimore. Nobody loves Baltimore more than I do," Pugh said. "I know that Baltimore will move forward. There are great people out there I hope that will take over the reigns, but what I want the citizens of Baltimore do is to continue to believe in the future of our city. Again, I apologize to the city, the state ... This is a time for me to rebuild my life."

In a 13-minute video submitted to the court, Pugh apologized and accepted responsibility for her actions. Pugh's lawyers also submitted to the court dozens of letters in support of leniency, including a letter from Kweisi Mfume.

VIDEO: Kurt Schmoke on Pugh's mental state

Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke was one of five people who spoke in court Thursday as a character witness for Pugh. He doesn't think Pugh will be in prison for as long as she was sentenced.

"Given her age, it is likely that Mayor Pugh will be out in about 15 months," Schmoke said.

Schmoke based that off the fact Pugh will be 70 years old by the time she surrenders, and there were health care matters at play that lawyers and the judge knew about. Schmoke said he recently met with Pugh at the request of a friend, and that in talking to her, he could tell she was still struggling.

"I went over to see her a couple of weeks ago, and it was hard for her to complete a full sentence without crying," Schmoke said.

"Believe it or not, I could not get up for those first 60 or 90 days that I laid curled up in my bed. I couldn't move. I just couldn't. It was hard to face. Sometimes, it's hard to face what did occur," Pugh said.

Schmoke, who said he has known Pugh for 40 years, said Pugh isn't underestimating the significance of the crimes committed and said the sentence is still tough.

"The whole series of incidents were a real body blow to the body power, the city. It was a very serious matter for the entire city, but I think that we can get on to the prospect of dealing and look to the future. But Catherine Pugh never underestimated how serious this was not only to her, but to the citizens of Baltimore," Schmoke said.

VIDEO: Catherine Pugh apologizes in video submitted to court

Pugh was federally indicted on conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and two counts of tax evasion. Pugh was charged on Nov. 14, 2019, and the charges were made public Nov. 20, 2019.

Pugh entered a guilty plea Nov. 21, 2019, to four of the 11 federal charges filed against her -- fraud and tax evasion charges.

Pugh's close aide, Gary Brown, was involved in selling Pugh's books and collecting the money. He awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax fraud.

Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh leaves the federal courthouse after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion related to her Healthy Holly books on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) © 2019 MCT Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh leaves the federal courthouse after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion related to her Healthy Holly books on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)


Police release bodycam video in fatal officer-involved shooting on I-83

Retiring Anne Arundel police lieutenant's daughter shares emotional well wishes

Youth Bmore Uprise aims to mentor, uplift children

Bill would give police technology to send photos of distracted drivers to violators

House passes bill to extend insurance coverage for IVF to unmarried people

READ THE FULL STORY:Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh sentenced in federal court

CHECK OUT WBAL:Get all the latest Baltimore news, weather and sports. WBAL-TV brings you the best in Maryland news online, anytime.


More from WBAL TV Baltimore

WBAL TV Baltimore
WBAL TV Baltimore
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon