Attorney: Ex-Baltimore mayor surrenders for prison term

Baltimore’s disgraced former mayor surrendered to federal authorities Friday to begin serving a three-year prison sentence stemming from a public corruption scandal.

Catherine Pugh’s attorney, Steven Silverman, told The Associated Press his client “surrendered as directed.” Pugh was sentenced in February for fraudulently selling her self-published children’s books to nonprofit organizations to promote her political career.

Pugh, 70, was ordered to report to an all-women federal correctional institution in Aliceville, Alabama, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Birmingham. She was originally scheduled to surrender on April 13 but received extensions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Silverman said he could not comment on whether Pugh will seek to serve out her sentence under home confinement over coronavirus concerns until he learns more about the conditions at the prison.

The pandemic has prompted the Federal Bureau of Prisons to suspend all social visits at its facilities. New inmates are screened for COVID-19 risk factors and symptoms and some are quarantined.

The bureau has struggled to combat the pandemic behind bars, where social distancing is nearly impossible, and has increasingly relied on home confinement to try to clear cramped quarters and reduce the chance of infection for high-risk inmates. More than 6,340 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at facilities across the U.S. and at least 89 federal inmates have died since late March, according to officials.

Pugh, a Democrat, was elected mayor in 2016 and resigned under pressure in May 2019 as authorities investigated bulk sales of her “Healthy Holly” paperbacks, which netted her hundreds of thousands of dollars. She pleaded guilty in November to federal conspiracy and tax evasion.

Federal authorities accused her of double-selling the books, keeping many for self-promotion purposes and failing to deliver them to institutions they were purchased for, including Baltimore City Public Schools. Pugh used the proceeds to fund straw donations to her mayoral campaign and to buy and renovate a house.

Pugh last week also pleaded guilty to a state perjury charge for failing to disclose a business interest relating to her children’s books on her financial disclosure forms when she was a state senator. She was sentenced to six months in jail to be served concurrently with her federal sentence.

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