BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two people linked to the Healthy Holly book scandal pleaded guilty in relation to the former mayor Catherine Pugh’s indictment announced Wednesday.
Two former city employees — Gary Brown, Jr. and Roslyn Wedington — entered guilty pleas of fraud conspiracy and tax charges. Brown was a former aid to Pugh when she served as state senator and during her campaign for mayor. He was eventually fired as a Deputy Director of Special Events in the mayor’s office. Wedington was the executive director of the Maryland Center for Adult Training, which was raided in April as a part of the Healthy Holly book scandal.
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According to the indictment, Brown allegedly helped Pugh defraud purchasers of Healthy Holly books in order to enrich themselves, promote Pugh’s political career and fund her campaign for mayor. Brown also allegedly helped Pugh solicit nonprofit organizations and foundations to buy the Healthy Holly books.
The duo allegedly made money by selling the books and either not deliver them, or if they delivered them convert them for their own use without the buyer’s knowledge or they would double sell the books without the buyer’s knowledge or consent.
In a press conference Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said in one instance Pugh and Brown allegedly took thousands of books that one particular buyer bought that were later donated them to Baltimore City Public Schools and removed some of the donated books from city schools storage warehouse for personal use.
According to the indictment, Pugh had donated books delivered to her offices so that she and Brown had a surplus of inventory.
The indictment also states that they evaded taxes by creating a rouse where Pugh wrote Brown checks for thousands of dollars from the Healthy Holly account. Then they allegedly used fake invoices and falsified tax forms to pay less in taxes.
Brown pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and tax charges related to the conduct with Pugh laid out in the indictment.
Brown and Wedington also pleaded guilty to tax charges related to a separate “scheme” to defraud the U.S, Hur said.
“Both have admitted that they conspired to avoid tax withholdings from Ms. Wedington’s payroll check while Wedington was the executive director of the Maryland Center for Adult Training and when Brown was the chairman of the board of directors,” Hur added.
In 2013, Wedington’s salary was garnished due to outstanding student loan debt and medical bills. In order to avoid further garnishments, according to the plea agreement. Wedington allegedly asked Brown to put her off payroll so that MCAT would no longer submit her name to the payroll service provider for the purposes of calculating tax withholdings with her salary. Brown allegedly agreed and then wrote checks to Wedington or gave her cash equal to or greater than her salary.
No taxes were withheld from the funds Brown paid Wedington, Hur said, no was her salary put in her back account where it was subjected to garnishment.
Brown faces up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy and Brown and Wedington each face up to five years for defrauding the U.S. and could face three years for each count of filing a false tax report.
“Mr. Brown regrets his role in this matter, has resolved the charges against him, and trusts that the court process will treat everyone involved fairly,’ said Brown’s attorney Barry J. Pollack.
An attorney for Wedington, Brandon Mead, also issued this statement: “She, unfortunately, got put in a situation that many Americans face today, where she was behind on student loans, behind on health care debt, and she, unfortunately, made some wrong decisions.”
Read the full indictment here: