The final defendant in the case against former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh ended Thursday when the former director of a nonprofit job training center was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison on tax fraud charges.
Roslyn Wedington, 51, asked for leniency, saying that she cheated on her taxes because she was overwhelmed by student loans and medical bills and trying to help friends and family. If spared prison time, she said, she could pay back her debt to society.
But federal prosecutors, calling her a “rare fraud recidivist,” noted that she had embezzled $800,000 from a previous job and made little effort to make restitution.
U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow noted Wedington’s ability to help people, but said that she had twice taken advantage of a position of authority.
“You have proven you cannot be trusted,” Chasanow said. “Frankly, I have no trouble imposing 24 months.”
Wedington was director of the Maryland Center for Adult Training, where Pugh served on the board of directors. Pugh aide Gary Brown helped Wedington earn an off-the-books salary so she could avoid paying taxes and wage garnishment for years. She managed to avoid paying $120,000 to the government during that time.
Brown was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for his role in the MCAT scheme, as well as a fraud scheme related to Pugh’s Healthy Holly children’s books. Pugh, meanwhile, is serving a three-year sentence in an Alabama federal prison.
Pugh sat on MCAT’s board of directors from 2001 until 2017, including serving as its chair.
Wedington was convicted in 2004 for stealing $852,000 from a beloved Park Heights dentist while working as his secretary. She presented checks to Dr. Ernest Colvin to sign, then would add a thousand dollars to the amount. Colvin, who has since died, asked at the time for leniency for Wedington, and she was spared jail and asked to pay back $250,000. She made sporadic payments.
Part of Wedington’s salary from MCAT was garnished in 2013 to repay debts. To avoid such garnishments moving forward, she asked Brown to move her “off payroll” at MCAT and instead funnel money directly to her.
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According to Wedington’s plea agreement, Brown directed the center’s payroll provider to pay him the amount of her salary — more than $80,000 a year — as an independent contractor. He then gave the money to Wedington in cash. Brown eventually gained authority to write checks from MCAT bank accounts, and started writing Wedington checks directly.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told Chasanow that “fraud was how [Wedington] operated. That’s simply the state of affairs for her.”
Wedington’s attorney, Brandon Mead, said that his client hadn’t splurged on handbags and fancy cars, but was trying to get by.
“Ms. Wedington is one of those individuals who takes on a lot,” Mead told Chasanow.
Wedington apologized, but also blamed others.
That didn’t sit well with Chasanow.
“The fraud in this case was your instigation,” Chasanow said. “You didn’t want to pay taxes, you wanted to have money yourself. There might’ve been good things you did with it. That’s not the point.”