Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to a fraud scheme that centered around a children’s book series.
At the sentencing, the 69-year-old Pugh apologized in court “to anyone I have offended or hurt through my actions" and asked U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow for leniency, The Baltimore Sun reports.
But Chasanow wasn't swayed, calling Pugh's crime "astounding," according to the paper.
“I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense," she said. "This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment. This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly I think are extremely, extremely serious.”
In March of 2019, The Baltimore Sun published an investigative piece that revealed that Pugh had entered into a no-bid deal with the University of Maryland Medical System. At the time, Pugh reportedly sat on the board of the directors and got the medical system to buy 100,000 copies of her self-published “Healthy Holly” books for $500,000. She also failed to print thousands of copies of the book and double-sold thousands more, the paper reports.
An investigation into her finances forced her to resign from the board and as mayor. Prosecutors said that overall she netted more than $500,000 in the scheme.
Pugh must repay the medical system $400,000, the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund — which also bought books — $12,000 and forfeit her Ashburton home, her campaign account and an additional $670,000.
Chasanow said that she hopes that Pugh's sentencing will act a deterrent to future elected officials.
“I disagree that the length of the sentence has no impact on others out there who might be thinking about using or abusing their positions of trust,” Chasanow said.
Pugh's sentence — three years — was in the middle of the one year Pugh asked for and the five years prosecution wanted.