The FBI seized former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s emails and other computer records — along with those of one of her longtime aides — as part of its investigation into her financial dealings, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
On the day in April that federal authorities raided Pugh’s home and office in City Hall, Gayle Guilford, the city’s cybersecurity chief, signed two previously undisclosed receipts for a pair of hard drives containing records for Pugh and aide Gary Brown Jr.
Two weeks later, on the day federal search warrants obtained for the raid were set to expire, an FBI computer scientist emailed Guilford, saying she was waiting on more records about Pugh and Brown. That day, the city turned over a third hard drive to an FBI agent and Guilford signed a receipt for it.
The receipts and the email were disclosed Wednesday under the Maryland Public Information Act.
The raid took place April 25, when Pugh was under intense scrutiny over sales of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System, where she was an unpaid board member, and other organizations with business before the city. Agents entered City Hall early that morning, carrying out boxes of materials that the city has previously said included two dozen items, including copies of the “Healthy Holly” books, a check to Pugh from the medical system and settlement paperwork for a house Pugh bought shortly after becoming mayor.
Steve Silverman, the former mayor’s attorney, said he did not know anything about the hard drives described in the documents.
“I have no more information today than I had on May 1," Silverman said. “I don’t have any information about what, if anything, is in the works.”
It remains unclear what potential crimes federal authorities are investigating, and no one has been charged. Pugh’s friends have said in the months since the raids that she is trying "to put together a normal life.”
Brown could not be reached by phone for comment. In his role at the time as acting mayor, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, announced the day before the FBI raid that he had fired Brown.
The May 6 email about the additional records the FBI was seeking is from Susi Hajeski, a computer scientist with the federal law enforcement agency. It is the only sign of the continuing federal investigation to have surfaced since the raids, which also targeted two houses owned by Pugh, Brown’s home and a nonprofit job training program they were connected to.
“Thank you so much for hosting me a couple weeks ago,” wrote Hajeski, apparently referring to the City Hall raid. “Now that the dust has settled, the agents working this investigation have been asking about data your folks were collecting.”
She specifically requested Pugh and Brown’s remote computer access logs; files they created, changed or deleted on shared city drives; backups of their user profiles; and any files they deleted from the profiles.
“The requested data should only be in reference to Catherine Pugh and Gary Brown Jr., per the two search warrants provided on April 25, 2019,” Hajeski wrote.
The emails released to The Sun also show Guilford collecting information about Pugh’s and Brown’s city-provided cellphones on the day of the raid. Guilford forwarded information about Brown’s phone to city Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, the emails show.
Cumming declined to say whether she assisted in the raids.
Brown worked with Pugh when she represented part of Baltimore in the state Senate before becoming mayor. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws for funneling cash through relatives to Pugh’s mayoral campaign. Pugh kept Brown employed at City Hall, where he remained until Young fired him.
When she resigned, Pugh apologized in a statement for the harm she had caused to the city’s image amid the scandal over about $800,000 in sales of the “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Pugh publicly produced records of printing only enough books to cover about $300,000 worth of the UMMS contracts. She returned $100,000 of the $500,000 she received from the hospital system.
The revelations of the book deals, first reported in The Sun in March, led to political upheaval in the city. After Pugh resigned, Young took her place, and City Councilman Brandon Scott became council president. Young and Scott are also Democrats.