cloudy.png
Sunday October 25th, 2020 6:38PM

Former Baltimore mayor enters guilty pleas in fraud case

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BALTIMORE (AP) — The disgraced former mayor of Baltimore pleaded guilty Thursday to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges in a case involving sales of her self-published children's books and exposing once again the depths of corruption in the city.

Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty in federal court in Baltimore to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the government and two counts of tax evasion. She pleaded not guilty to seven counts of wire fraud that were included in the indictment unsealed a day earlier.

The case centers on sales of her self-published “Healthy Holly” books to nonprofits and foundations to promote her political career and fund her run for mayor. Pugh, a longtime Democratic politician who was elected mayor in 2016, resigned under pressure in May.

Pugh faces up to 35 years in prison. U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said she could be sentenced to about five years based on sentencing guidelines, but a judge would make the final determination. Her sentencing is set for Feb. 27.

Pugh only spoke to answer questions from the judge. She mostly rested her face on her hands, occasionally spoke to her attorney and swiveled on her chair.

“I do,” she said after U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow asked her whether she agreed that several facts presented by prosecutors, including how books were shuffled from a city warehouse, were true.

Wearing a pinstriped dark coat and scarf, she silently walked out of the courthouse flanked by attorneys after the hearing and left in a waiting SUV. Defense attorney Steven Silverman declined to comment.

Hur said Pugh’s admissions of guilt “demonstrated that she betrayed the trust placed on her.”

Prosecutors explained how Pugh, helped by her aide Gary Brown Jr., double-sold the illustrated paperbacks and failed to deliver them to institutions they were purchased for, including the Baltimore City Public Schools. They said Pugh used the proceeds to fund straw donations to her mayoral campaign and to renovate a house.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Clarke detailed how the University of Maryland Medical System — one of the state’s largest employers — came to be Pugh’s biggest book customer. The system paid Pugh a total of $500,000 for 100,000 copies that were meant to be distributed to schoolchildren, but about 60,000 of those books were sent to a city warehouse and a Pugh office from where thousands were later removed to give to other customers.

Pugh never delivered the other 40,000 books that the health system purchased for city schools. The system wrote the first check for the books in 2011 and the last one last year.

Pugh, 69, had previously served in the state Senate, where she sat on a committee that funded the medical system. She also sat on the hospital network’s board from 2001 until the scandal erupted in March.

The system described some of the purchases as “grants” in federal filings. Pugh returned the last $100,000 payment and described the deal as a "regrettable mistake" after the scheme was uncovered.

Brown and another city employee, Roslyn Wedington, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the government and filing a false tax return. Their sentencing hearing hasn’t been scheduled.

Pugh became Baltimore’s second mayor in less than a decade to step down because of scandal. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon left office in 2010 as part of a plea deal for misappropriating about $500 in gift cards meant for needy families.

The charges against Pugh came as the city has struggled with violent crime and other cases of public corruption, as well as a major police scandal. This is the fifth consecutive year the city has had more than 300 homicides.

Corruption in Baltimore has regularly fed headlines.

State Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, a Democrat, was sentenced in 2018 to three and a half years in prison in a bribery case. This year, former Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to file federal tax returns.

Baltimore also is still grappling with another police scandal: A task force created to get illegal guns off the streets spent years ripping off drug dealers and stealing money from citizens.

Meanwhile, the police department remains under a federal consent decree requiring sweeping reforms. It was authorized in January after the U.S. Justice Department released a scathing report detailing longstanding patterns of racial profiling and excessive force within Baltimore’s police force.

Federal authorities began investigating city police following the April 2015 death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, while in the custody of officers.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who entered the job in March, has unveiled a plan to lower the high rates of violent crime. He also is seeking to transform a police department that is distrusted by many citizens because of past police misconduct.

In April, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed emergency legislation to overhaul the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors, after Pugh’s shadowy book deals became the public face of a wider self-dealing scandal in the system.

“The people of Baltimore, and all Marylanders, should be able to have confidence in the honesty and character of the people they elect to office,” Hogan, a Republican, said Wednesday. “It is completely unacceptable anytime a public official violates the public trust. That’s why I pledged to put an end to business as usual, clean up the mess, and restore integrity in government.”

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Entertainment, AP Business
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Former Baltimore mayor enters guilty pleas in fraud case
The disgraced former mayor of Baltimore has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges in a case involving sales of her self-published children's books
1:46PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Chief: Suspect in officer’s slaying ‘very target specific’
Detroit’s police chief says a gunman who fatally shot one officer and wounded another was trying “to bait” them as they searched a home for him
1:44PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Refugee resettlement agencies sue to block Trump order
Three agencies in charge of resettling refugees in the U.S. are suing the Trump administration over the president’s executive order allowing states and cities to block refugees from being settled in their areas
1:10PM ( 54 minutes ago )
U.S. News
Humble One: Mourinho says he’s emotionally stronger at Spurs
Jose Mourinho is portraying himself as a humble coach at the start of his Tottenham reign and emotionally stronger
1:37PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Bloomberg files campaign paperwork, no decision on bid yet
New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg files paperwork to create presidential campaign
1:31PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Trump lashes out at Iran for shutting down internet
President Donald Trump says Iran is so “unstable” that the Iranian government has shut down the internet so Iranians cannot disclose what he says is the “tremendous violence” occurring in the country
1:21PM ( 43 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Catcher Yasmani Grandal, White Sox reach $73M, 4-year deal
All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal agreed to a $73 million, four-year contract with the Chicago White Sox, finding a more lucrative free-agent market now that he no longer is burdened by draft-pick compensation
12:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
Israel’s Netanyahu charged in corruption cases
Israel’s attorney general has formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases, throwing the country’s paralyzed political system into further disarray and threatening the long-time leader’s grip on power
12:40PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Netanyahu rival says PM has ‘no moral mandate’
Benjamin Netanyahu’s main political rival says the indicted prime minister has “no public or moral mandate to make fateful decisions for the state of Israel”
12:36PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Dave East is in ‘Survival’ mode for debut album
Dave East is making his official debut with ‘Survival,’ even though he’s well-known to the hip-hop community
12:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
Country star Sam Hunt arrested for DUI in Tennessee
Country singer Sam Hunt was arrested for driving under the influence and violation of the open container law after police in Nashville stopped him for driving the wrong way down a one-way road
11:48AM ( 2 hours ago )
Prince Andrew faces new pressure to talk to US about Epstein
Britain’s disgraced Prince Andrew is facing mounting calls to provide information to U.S. law enforcement agencies and to lawyers who are investigating crimes committed by U.S. sex offender Jeffrey Epstein
11:21AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Stocks edge lower on Wall Street over China trade anxiety
Stocks fell in afternoon trading on Wall Street Thursday as investors worry that the U.S. and China will fail to make a trade deal before the year is over
12:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
US home sales rose 1.9% last month, lifted by lower rates
US home sales rose 1.9% in October, boosted by lower mortgage rates
11:58AM ( 2 hours ago )
Wipe out credit card debt by setting SMART goals
Wipe out credit card debt with the SMART goal-setting method
11:50AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Chief: Suspect in officer’s slaying ‘very target specific’
Detroit’s police chief says a gunman who fatally shot one officer and wounded another was trying “to bait” them as they searched a home for him
1:44PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Refugee resettlement agencies sue to block Trump order
Three agencies in charge of resettling refugees in the U.S. are suing the Trump administration over the president’s executive order allowing states and cities to block refugees from being settled in their areas
1:10PM ( 54 minutes ago )
Massachusetts OKs ban on flavored vaping, tobacco products
Massachusetts lawmakers passed a groundbreaking ban Thursday on the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products, including menthol cigarettes
1:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
Vape debate: Are e-cigarettes wiping out teen smoking?
Teen smoking is plummeting amid a surge in vaping. Are e-cigarettes killing off cigarette use in young people?
12:58PM ( 1 hour ago )
Teen used ‘ghost gun’ in California high school shooting
Authorities say the teenager who shot five classmates, killing two, at a Southern California high school used an unregistered ghost gun
12:48PM ( 1 hour ago )