Former Baltimore Mayor Enters Guilty Pleas in Fraud Case

BALTIMORE (AP) -
U.S. Attorney Robert Hur arrives at U.S. District Court in Baltimore Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

The disgraced former mayor of Baltimore pleaded guilty Thursday to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges in a case involving sales of her self-published children’s books.

Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty in federal court in Baltimore to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the government and tax evasion. But she pleaded not guilty to wire fraud. The pleas came a day after an 11-count indictment was unsealed.

Corruption in Baltimore has regularly fed headlines.

Last year, state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, a Democrat, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in a bribery case. This year, former Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to file federal tax returns. Baltimore also is still grappling with a major police scandal: A task force created to get illegal guns off the streets spent years ripping off drug dealers and stealing money from citizens.

Meanwhile, the police department remains under a federal consent decree requiring sweeping reforms. It was authorized in January after the U.S. Justice Department released a scathing report detailing longstanding patterns of racial profiling and excessive force within the city’s police force.

Federal authorities began investigating city police following the April 2015 death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in the custody of officers.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who entered the job in March, has unveiled a plan to lower the city’s chronically high rates of violent crime. He also is seeking to transform a police department that is distrusted by many citizens because of past police misconduct.

In April, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed emergency legislation to overhaul the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors, after Pugh’s shadowy book deals became the public face of a wider self-dealing scandal at the system, where Pugh was a board member for nearly 20 years.

“The people of Baltimore, and all Marylanders, should be able to have confidence in the honesty and character of the people they elect to office,” Hogan, a Republican, said Wednesday. “It is completely unacceptable anytime a public official violates the public trust. That’s why I pledged to put an end to business as usual, clean up the mess, and restore integrity in government.”