BALTIMORE (WJZ) — U.S. Attorney Robert Hur is recommending a nearly five-year prison sentence for former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh in the “Healthy Holly” scandal.
In documents filed with the court, Hur called Pugh’s actions in the scheme “a recurring pattern of well-executed steps that built on each other, becoming more audacious and complex leading up to the mayoral election.”
The former mayor pleaded guilty in November to four charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and two counts of tax evasion.
“The facts establish that Pugh deliberately engaged in a broad range of criminal acts while serving as Maryland State Senator and Mayor of Baltimore City,” Hur said.
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“As an educated businesswoman and successful politician, Pugh had countless opportunities for self-reflection, occasions when she could have checked her moral and ethical compass and chosen to change course. She did the opposite, and chose to double down on a path of rampant criminal deception to fulfill her ambitions,” the sentencing memorandum from Hur’s office said.
In total, Hur’s office is recommending a judge sentence Pugh to 57 months in prison.
Law professor Doug Colbert said prosecutors have a strong case.
“The federal prosecutors made a very strong and compelling argument that supports their recommendation of 57 months, and it’s based on a pattern of activity over a seven-year period,” Colbert said.
According to documents, Pugh also lied to FBI agents who came to her house to seize her personal cellphone. They said she told them she didn’t have it and gave them a city-issued phone instead.
Agents then called her personal phone and heard it ringing under her bed pillow, according to documents.
In the documents, federal prosecutors also claim Pugh used her co-owned business called 2 Chic Boutique to launder a $20,000 check from local businessman J.P. Grant who had already contributed the maximum $6,000 to her campaign.
Court documents said Pugh was the majority owner of 2 Chics Boutique — and that her business partners were three other women with ties to Baltimore City government — one of whom WJZ has learned was Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt.
WJZ spoke with Pratt on Thursday. She said she had absolutely no knowledge of the $20,000 check. She also said the bookkeeper prepared the taxes and she was not aware of the check.
Pratt stressed she had absolutely no knowledge of the check. She has not been charged or accused of any wrongdoing.
WJZ reached out to J.P. Grant for comment but had not heard back.
Federal prosecutors had been investigating her since February 2017. She resigned as mayor in May 2019.
Pugh’s defense team said they “strongly disagree” with the recommendation.
“Our position as to a fair and appropriate sentence will be laid out in a sentencing memorandum which will be made public pending order of court,” they said in a statement.
Sentencing for Pugh is set for February 27.