November 20, 2019 / 2:35 PM / 25 days ago

Former Baltimore mayor charged with wire fraud over 'Healthy Holly' book sales

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was charged on Wednesday with wire fraud and tax evasion relating to sales of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s book to charities where she worked, federal prosecutors said.

The charges against the Democrat and former state lawmaker relate to her dealings with the University of Maryland Medical System, where she was a board member, and which paid her for her children’s books.

Pugh, 69, who initially defended the arrangement, called it a “regrettable mistake” in March and resigned in May.

Steven Silverman, Pugh’s attorney, offered no comment and said he would address the matter in open court on Thursday when the former mayor is scheduled to appear.

Federal prosecutors charged Pugh with using the proceeds of the book sales to fund straw donations to her mayoral election campaign and towards the purchase and renovation of a house in Baltimore.

“This is a tragedy and the last thing that our city needs,” U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said at a news briefing. “There are many victims in this case. The victims are all of us...the people of Baltimore.”

Pugh was elected to a four-year term as mayor in 2016 after gaining prominence as a state lawmaker during protests over the 2015 death in police custody of a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray.

Pugh’s former legislative aide Gary Brown, who helped her promote and distribute the books, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the indictment said.

The former mayor faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years for wire fraud if convicted.

Reporting by Donna Owens in Baltimore and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum

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