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Ex-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh sentenced to 3 years for fraud

Pugh will also serve three years of probation and pay nearly $670,000 in restitution. File Photo courtesy governor of Maryland/Flickr
Pugh will also serve three years of probation and pay nearly $670,000 in restitution. File Photo courtesy governor of Maryland/Flickr

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Maryland sentenced author and former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to three years in prison Thursday over a fraud scheme related to a series of children's books she's written.

In addition to the prison time, Pugh was ordered to serve three years of probation and pay $669,000 in restitution.

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Pugh pleaded guilty last November to two counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of tax evasion. Federal prosecutors said she was involved in a corrupt scheme involving the sales of her Healthy Holly books and used proceeds to fund her political campaign and buy a house.

She at one point sold 100,000 of the books for $500,000 to the University of Maryland Medical System, where she was a board member, and was part of a state Senate committee that agreed to partly fund the hospital system at the time.

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Prosecutors said Pugh sometimes failed to print or deliver books she'd sold and avoided public payment disclosures to avoid paying taxes.

Pugh apologized in court Thursday and asked U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow for mercy.

"No one is more disappointed than me," she said. "I did turn a blind eye. I did, and sanctioned many things I should not have."

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Chasanow called the case "astounding."

"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."

Pugh was elected mayor of Baltimore in 2016 and resigned after her home was raided by federal agents last April. Previously, she served stints in both houses of Maryland's General Assembly and on the Baltimore City Council.

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