US Attorney for Maryland Robert Hur talks about the effort by many people in the case against former Mayor of Baltimore Catherine Pugh.
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to four criminal counts involving the sale of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books, acknowledging a laundry list of actions to defraud those who purchased the books and use the proceeds for personal and political gain without paying proper taxes on them.
Here’s a quick rundown of what happened and what comes next.
What did she plead to?
Pugh pleaded guilty to four charges: conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and two counts of tax evasion.
Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh arrives for a scheduled arraignment on fraud and tax evasion charges related to sales of her "Healthy Holly" books
The facts she stipulated to in her plea agreement with prosecutors included most of the allegations outlined in the 11-count indictment against her, which was made public Wednesday. They included her double-selling copies of her books to multiple buyers, hiding the proceeds from the Internal Revenue Service, and improperly funneling some of the funds into her mayoral campaign in 2016.
What will be the punishment?
Pugh’s sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 27. A judge will ultimately decide her sentence. The maximum sentence for the charges she pleaded guilty to is 35 years in prison, but the sentencing guidelines agreed to by prosecutors and Pugh’s attorneys put the suggested sentence in the range of five years in prison. The judge could sentence Pugh to no time or the maximum. There are many factors at play, including how Pugh comports herself in the interim.
Pugh will be able to address the court — and by extension the public — at her sentencing hearing, and present character references.
What does Pugh have to do until her sentencing?
Pugh was allowed to remain free under supervised release pending her sentencing. She handed over her passport in court Thursday, and she is not allowed to travel outside the continental United States. She is not allowed to contact anyone named in the case against her.
As another condition of her release, Pugh has agreed to pay whatever she owes the IRS for 2013 through 2017 and to complete a financial assessment outlining all assets of $1,000 or more, including any assets transferred to third parties since 2013.
What does she have to forfeit?
In the indictment of Pugh, prosecutors said they were seeking to seize $769,688 in profit from illegitimate book sales, as well as Pugh’s current home in Ashburton, which they alleged she bought and renovated using fraudulently obtained funds.
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In court Thursday, U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow said the parties had not agreed yet on what Pugh would forfeit, and might still need to negotiate or litigate the matter.
Did Pugh say anything?
Pugh affirmed multiple times during the course of Thursday’s hearing that she understood what she was being charged with, that the facts as outlined in the plea agreement were accurate, and that she was, in fact, guilty of the crimes to which she was pleading.
After the hearing, she left the courthouse without making any public comments. Her attorney, Steven Silverman, later issued a statement.
“This has been a challenging process for former Mayor Pugh. After careful consideration of the charges brought against her, Ms. Pugh has decided to forego a long trial,” Silverman said. “Such a trial would drain essential government resources and cause further distraction from the serious issues our region faces.”
He went on: “Ms. Pugh sincerely apologizes to all of those that she let down, most especially the citizens of Baltimore whom she had the honor to serve in multiple capacities for decades. She looks forward to the conclusion of this process.”