Catherine Pugh pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars with fraudulent children's book sales, authorities say

By Sean Neumann
November 20, 2019 05:02 PM

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has been indicted on federal charges for a conspiracy to commit wire fraud and tax evasion in an alleged scheme federal prosecutors say involved self-publishing and selling children’s books.

Pugh, 69, could be facing a lengthy prison sentence of 175 years, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland. She is expected to plead not guilty to 11 counts of fraud and tax evasion made public Wednesday, NPR reported. An attorney for Pugh did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.

“Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government,” U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland Robert Hur said in the statement, which was published by the Baltimore Sun.

Catherine Pugh
Ex-Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh in 2017, six years after authorities say she began defrauding the city
| Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty

Federal authorities allege Pugh made deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with non-profit organizations to sell her Healthy Holly children’s books without ever intending to send copies.

Prosecutors say Pugh was then funneling proceeds into her own campaign fund and that city employees Gary Brown Jr. and Roslyn Wedington helped her do it, using the money to pay off Pugh’s debts, pad her campaign fund, and falsify tax documents in the process. Pugh even bought a house using fraudulent money, authorities say.

The democratic mayor resigned in May after the scandal came to light and sparked public outrage. Wednesday’s indictment alleges the former mayor’s criminal actions related to her Healthy Holly book series dates back to 2011 when she was a senator in Maryland.

Pugh’s Healthy Holly books, which promoted healthy exercise and nutritional habits, were sold mostly to foundations that did business with the city of Baltimore, the indictment says.

Both Brown Jr. and Wedington accepted plea deals, prosecutors say, admitting to fraud and falsifying documents to cover their tracks.

Authorities say they are looking to recover roughly $769,000 as a result of the scandal.