Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was indicted on corruption charges connected to money she received for a series of children’s books she wrote, the New York Times reports. Pugh, who resigned in May amid state and federal investigations over the sale of her “Healthy Holly” books to companies that had business ties to the city, faces charges of including wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the federal government and tax evasion. Most of the “Healthy Holly” books, promoting healthy eating and exercise, were never distributed to children as had been promised. Instead, thousands of copies were found in a Baltimore public school warehouse; others were stored in Pugh’s offices and one of her houses.
Federal prosecutors said the book series was at the heart of an elaborate scheme orchestrated by Pugh to defraud health care companies, Baltimore’s school system and taxpayers by failing to deliver books that had been paid for. “Our elected officials must place the interests of the citizens above their own,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Hur in Maryland. “Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government.” In some cases, Pugh sold copies of the same set of books to two different buyers, enabling her to be paid twice. Prosecutors said Pugh used the money from the book deals for her political campaigns, and to buy and renovate a house in Baltimore. The city has cycled through five police chiefs in four years, contended with stubbornly high homicide rates, and sought to reform a police department operating under a federal court order intended to end discriminatory practices.