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Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Released From Prison Early

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has been released from a federal prison in Alabama and transferred to a Baltimore halfway house, WJZ learned Wednesday.

Pugh, who was sentenced in February 2020 to three years in prison following her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges, will serve the rest of her sentence at a residential facility in the Baltimore area, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

Mayor Brandon Scott on Wednesday extended his best wishes to Pugh, saying his predecessor has served her time.

"The former mayor served her time, and when you serve your time, you have the ability to come home," Scott said. "I wish her well."

Pugh's attorney, Steve Silverman, told WJZ he had no comment on the matter.

Pugh, 71, resigned from the mayor's office in May 2019, a week after federal agents raided her home and office amid a scandal over a kickback scheme involving a series of children's books she authored. She was indicted in November 2019 on 11 counts including fraud and tax evasion charges.

INSIDE THE CASE: How Federal Agents Built Their Case On The 'Healthy Holly' Book Scandal

That same month, Pugh pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, a count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of tax evasion. Three months later, she was sentenced to three years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.

As part of Pugh's sentence, she was ordered to pay nearly $412,000 in restitution and to forfeit nearly $670,000 including property on Ellamont Road, along with $17,800 from a political committee.

Pugh, a Maryland state senator from 2007 through 2016, ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011. She won her second mayoral bid in 2015, taking office in December 2016.

The charges stem from "Healthy Holly," a children's book series Pugh published between June 2011 and August 2017. The books, part of an effort to promote Pugh's political career, were marketed and sold to organizations that did or were interested in doing business with the local and state governments.

Pugh acknowledged that she and her aide, Gary Brown, accepted payments for books that were never delivered and that some of the books were sold to multiple clients without their knowledge.

Clients included the University of Maryland Medical System. Pugh used her position on the UMMS board to get the health system to buy 20,000 copies of three of the books for $100,000 each. The books were supposed to be donated to Baltimore City Public Schools.

But, as Pugh admitted, those orders were not completely fulfilled. Instead, she sold some of the books to a third party and kept some of them for herself. The books that made it to the school district were described as unusable and riddled with grammatical errors.

The former mayor, who used her business account for personal expenses, also acknowledged making payments from the Healthy Holly business to Brown, who cashed them and then made illegal donations to her election committee.

Besides that, authorities found that Pugh used her book business to avoid paying taxes, downplaying her personal income. For instance, she claimed for the 2016 tax year that her taxable income was $31,020 so she owed $4,168—in reality, she owed roughly $100,000 on a taxable income of $322,365.

Brown was sentenced in September 2020 to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing a false tax return.

Pugh sought clemency from former President Donald Trump before he left office, but she did not receive a pardon.

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