FBI Raids Baltimore City Hall, Democrat Mayor’s Home

Catherine Pugh announced April 1 she was taking a leave of absence amid the growing scandal over sales of the self-published books…

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Catherine Pugh/IMAGE: YouTube

(Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun) FBI and IRS agents were raiding Baltimore’s City Hall and the home of Mayor Catherine Pugh early Thursday.

Dave Fitz, an FBI spokesman, confirmed agents from the Washington field office were executing search warrants at those locations Thursday morning, as well as at another address associated with Pugh.

Several people, one of them wearing an FBI windbreaker, could be seen at City Hall.

The third site is the location of the Maryland Center for Adult Training. Pugh once led the nonprofit job training program and it has listed online as board members three Pugh staffers — Gary Brown Jr., Poetri Deal and Afra Vance-White. Those three staffers were fired this week by acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

Pugh and her attorney, Steven Silverman, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

When Young, a Democrat, arrived Thursday morning at City Hall, he declined to comment.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said Thursday morning that Young didn’t know about the searches in advance. He also said Young did not know if the three aides were under investigation.

City Solicitor Andre Davis said he also did not know about the searches beforehand. He declined to comment further.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Pugh, a Democrat, is under investigation by the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor for sales of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books.

Citing health reasons, Pugh announced April 1 she was taking a leave of absence amid the growing scandal over sales of the self-published books. The Baltimore Sun reported last month that Pugh was paid $500,000 by the University of Maryland Medical System for 100,000 of the books to distribute to schoolchildren. The no-bid arrangement was made while she was on the hospital network’s unpaid board.

Health provider Kaiser Permanente later acknowledged that it paid Pugh more than $100,000 to buy about 20,000 copies of her books during a period when the company was seeking a lucrative contract to provide health insurance to city employees. Others with business before the city, including Columbia businessman J.P. Grant, also wrote checks for the book.

In all, Pugh’s Healthy Holly LLC took in at least $800,000 from local entities since 2011, The Sun has reported.

It was not clear Thursday morning where the agents were inside the seat of municipal government. The building houses the mayor’s office, the City Council president’s office, the city comptroller’s office and the offices of council members. It’s also home to the city law department, the finance department, the department of legislative reference and the inspector general’s office.

A Baltimore Police Department officer would not allow a reporter in the building.

Pugh’s attorney has said she has remained on paid leave because she is still recovering from a case of pneumonia. Young is filling in as acting mayor.

Thursday was not the first time a Baltimore mayor’s house has been raided by investigators. In 2008, state prosecutors and police searched the home of then-Mayor Sheila Dixon. The Democrat became the first Baltimore mayor to face criminal charges, was convicted and resigned.

(The Baltimore Sun Kevin Rector contributed to this article.)

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