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Pugh Received $21,000 in Illegal, Anonymous Campaign Donations, Unrelated to Indictment

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced charges against former Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh on Wednesday.  A federal grand jury indicted the former and longtime politician on 11 charges related to the sale of her Health Holly children’s books and a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and two counts of tax evasion.

The indictment alleged that Pugh conspired with former aide and Baltimore City employee, Gary Brown, to defraud purchasers of the Healthy Holly books, authored by Pugh, in order to promote Pugh and her campaign for Mayor.

But a review of Maryland’s Campaign database by The Gunpowder Gazette also shows that Pugh received $21,000 in “anonymous” campaign contributions, which is not allowable under Maryland law and was not caught in 2006 when it first started, nor in 2016 when it last occurred.

Nor are the payments part of Pugh’s indictment since records show that false names were used for fraudulent straw donations given to Pugh’s committee campaign by Brown, not that the donors were anonymous.

“Pursuant to Election Law Article 13-239, a campaign finance entity that receives a contribution from an anonymous source may not use the contribution for any purpose.  Additionally, the committee must remit the contribution to the Fair Campaign Financing Fund,” said Jared DeMarinis, director of the Maryland Board of Elections.

While the least of her current alleged legal problems, according to state campaign contribution records, Pugh received two $1,500 donations from an anonymous contributor from an address on the 1200 block of E. Fayette Street in Baltimore in 2006.  The remaining $18,000 arrived in 2016 via two checks and three credit card payments from “ANONYMOUS, ANONYMOUS” from “0123 ADDRESS, BALTIMORE, MD 00000.”

Click to enlarge. Source: Maryland Campaign Finance Database

Unrelated to the anonymous contributions, Pugh’s charging documents state that she paid Brown in checks that he cashed and converted into untraceable cash to fund money orders, debit cards and personal checks in the names of straw donors totaling approximately $35,800.  Those donations were then deposited deposited into the bank account for the Committee to Elect Catherine Pugh.

Brown pleaded guilty last week for conspiracy to defraud the United States when he falsely filed his tax returns. He was also charged in 2017 and ultimately convicted for violating Maryland’s election laws when he funneled $18,000 to Pugh’s campaign committee, using “someone else’s name,” according to the indictment records.

Pugh authored the series of children’s books she said were designed to teach children healthy eating habits.  She was the sole owner of Healthy Holly LLC, formed in 2011, through which she accepted payments for the books, made payments from the books’ proceeds to Brown and others, and through which she also made campaign contributions to political campaigns, including to her own — the Committee to Elect Catherine Pugh.

Pugh is scheduled for an initial appearance and arraignment in U.S. District Court on Thursday, but is expected to surrender to U.S. Marshals prior to the hearing.

This story may be updated.

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