By Joe Jurado, The Root
Greed has been the undoing of many a politician throughout American history. The latest to find themselves disgraced by the paper chase is former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh.
The Baltimore Sun reports that U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasano sentenced Pugh to three years in federal prison due to a fraud scheme involving a series of children’s books she self-published. Chasanow called the scheme “astounding.” While delivering the sentence she said:
“I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense. 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.”
Pugh came under scrutiny in March of last year when it was discovered that the University of Maryland Medical System entered into a no-bid deal to buy 100,000 copies of Pugh’s Healthy Holly children’s books for $500,000. Pugh sat on the board of directors for the school. The revelation resulted in investigations being launched and Pugh resigning both from the board of directors and her role as mayor.
The investigations would reveal that she had failed to publish thousands of copies, double sold large quantities of the book and had wound up acquiring over $850,000 as a result. Sales of the book were then used to improve the financial standing of her 2016 mayoral campaign. Prosecutors argued that this was not a lapse of judgment but a sustained and prolonged effort to enrich herself at the expense of others.
Pugh was a fixture of Philadelphia politics. She got her start with a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1999. She would follow this by joining the House of Delegates in 2005 and the state Senate in 2007, even serving as majority leader for two years. She helped open the Baltimore Design School, established the Baltimore Marathon and as mayor was instrumental in removing Confederate monuments.
That’s what makes this situation even more unfortunate. She seemed on the outside to be really working to improve lives and affect positive social change. It’s no secret that politicians have longed used their positions of power to enrich themselves. That doesn’t excuse committing fraud.
In addition to being charged with fraud, Pugh is facing perjury charges as the Office of the State Prosecutor believes Pugh broke the law by not disclosing profits from her Healthy Holly business on financial disclosure forms when she was a state senator.
This article originally appeared in The Root.