FBI and IRS agents raid Pugh’s house, City Hall, nonprofit she once ran

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Photo by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr

The feds have moved in on the mayor, with agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service serving federal warrants at her Ashburton home, City Hall the Maryland Center for Adult Training–a job-training nonprofit Pugh once led–and other locations this morning.

Dave Fitz, a spokesman for the FBI’s Baltimore field office, confirmed to Baltimore Fishbowl this morning that agents were “executing court-authorized search warrants” at Pugh’s house, City Hall and MCAT, and outlets are reporting they’ve also appeared at her attorney’s office, the home of former aide Gary Brown, Jr., and another home that Pugh previously lived in.

The Sun, The Washington Post and Fox 45 first reported the presence of agents serving warrants downtown and at Pugh’s house.

Agents were seen hours later walking out of Pugh’s home on Ellamont Road holding boxes of evidence.

They also left City Hall with boxes, which City Solicitor Andre Davis reportedly said came from Pugh’s second-floor suite of offices.

Davis said in an email to Baltimore Fishbowl that the federal agencies’ affidavits for the warrants are “under seal by the court,” and that “we are hoping to get the seal released as soon as possible.”

Gov. Larry Hogan this morning called for Pugh to step down in light of the raids.

“Now more than ever, Baltimore City needs strong and responsible leadership. Mayor Pugh has lost the public trust. She is clearly not fit to lead,” he said. “For the good of the city, Mayor Pugh must resign.”

Councilman Brandon Scott (2nd District) also called for Pugh to “resign immediately” in a statement.

“Baltimore needs to move forward and heal from this embarrassment,” he said. “Baltimore is a great and resilient city, but we can’t waste anymore time on this issue.”

The entire Baltimore City Council, the House delegation from the city, and the Greater Baltimore Committee have all already called on Pugh to step down.

Pugh has been out on indefinite leave for pneumonia since April 1, which has coincided with an infamous scandal involving her sales of hundreds of thousands of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System, on which she had served as an unpaid board member, and numerous other companies and nonprofits.

Among those firms and organizations were Kaiser Permanente, for whom Pugh voted to award a $48 million contract to insure the city’s municipal employees, and Associated Black Charities, which Pugh helped approve to steward the city’s Youth Fund—a deal that came with $1.2 million in city funds to cover administrative costs.

Pugh also received $500,000 over the years in payments for 100,000 “Healthy Holly” copies from the University of Maryland Medical System, from which she’s resigned following news of the scandal. Her known payments to UMMS and other entities total nearly $800,000.

Self-dealing among the members of the University of Maryland Medical System board came to light in March, a day before a committee hearing in Annapolis for a bill from Sen. Jill Carter (D-41st District) forbidding such conflicts of interest.

Amid the controversy surrounding her deals with UMMS, Pugh called the investigations a “witch hunt” and claimed she’d paid the proper taxes on the book sales.

She later held a press conference where she displayed shipping manifests for book orders and samples that she said showed plans for a clothing line based on the “Healthy Holly” character. She apologized that day for her conduct and any mistrust it may have sown, calling it a “regrettable mistake.”

The Center for Adult Training came into the picture last month when the Baltimore Business Journal reported Pugh had voted to approve a $19,800 contract in 2017 for the Park Heights nonprofit that she previously chaired, and at the time listed three of her aides on its board of directors.

All three of those aides–Brown, Pugh’s director of special projects; Poetri Deal, deputy director of the mayor’s office of government relations; and Afra Vance-White, director of external affairs–were terminated this week, Ex Officio Mayor Bernard C. “Jack’ Young told reporters Wednesday.

State prosecutors, the Office of the Inspector General and the city’s Ethics Board have launched probes about the “Healthy Holly” payments and Pugh’s past Board of Estimates votes.

The mayor has said repeatedly that she plans to return to City Hall once she’s recovered from pneumonia. However, her camp has been mum this week in response to emails from Baltimore Fishbowl, and Young said on Tuesday that he hadn’t heard from her in more than two weeks.

This marks the second time in just over a decade that officials have raided a Baltimore mayor’s home. In 2008, state prosecutors and police searched then-Mayor Sheila Dixon’s house following a scandal tied to her use of city-issued gift cards and gifts she received from a developer who was also her boyfriend. She was later convicted of embezzlement and resigned from office.

This story will be updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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