Baltimore’s mayor is increasingly engulfed in a widening corruption scandal. The FBI and IRS have gotten involved and raided both her home and Baltimore’s city hall today:
Hauling out boxes of “Healthy Holly” books and documents, dozens of federal law enforcement agents Thursday struck homes, businesses and government buildings across Baltimore as an investigation into Mayor Catherine Pugh’s business dealings widened.
FBI agents and IRS officials executed search warrants at her City Hall office, Pugh’s two houses, and offices of the mayor’s allies, as the growing scandal consumed the city’s attention, generated national headlines and provoked fresh calls for the embattled Democratic mayor’s resignation.
Dave Fitz, an FBI spokesman, confirmed that agents from the Baltimore FBI office and the Washington IRS office searched at least six addresses. The U.S. attorney’s office confirmed the location of a seventh search. The actions were the first confirmation that federal authorities, as well as state officials, were investigating the mayor’s activities.
Shortly after the raids began, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called on Pugh, who has taken a paid leave of absence as mayor, to resign. The Republican governor had asked the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor on April 1 to investigate Pugh’s sales of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s book series to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was on its unpaid board of directors.
Catherine Pugh is just the latest in a line of corrupt Baltimore mayors. Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon stole gift cards intended for poor children last decade:
But jurors did find Dixon guilty on a single “misappropriation by a fiduciary” charge – saying that sometime between December 2005 and late January 2006 while city council president, she took gift cards intended for charity and used them instead to buy electronics and other personal items at Best Buy and Target.
The cards had come from developer Patrick Turner who testified that he had sent $1,000 in gift cards in an unmarked envelope to City Hall after Dixon had called and asked him to do so.
Turner said he had believed they were being given “to the children of Baltimore.” Phone records showed that Dixon called the developer several times before and after he purchased the cards.
Turner testified he had no idea that some of the cards were used to purchase personal items – including a video camera and case that were found in her home during a June 2008 raid by state prosecutors.
Her successor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, is noted for having given rioters protesting the death of Freddie Gray “room to destroy” in 2015:
After days of peaceful protests in honor of the 25-year-old black West Baltimore man who died in police custody on April 19, demonstrations took a violent turn in Baltimore Saturday.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake held a press conference Saturday alongside community and religious leaders and asked for peace as hundreds marched in Baltimore in honor of Freddie Gray.
But when one reporter asked to comment on how Baltimore police responded to the protestors she said she instructed officers to allow protestors to express themselves and that “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”
“I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.”
She later tried to back away from the comments, but I believe she meant exactly what she said.
Baltimore Police Detective Momodu Gondo on Thursday became the fourth city officer to admit to robbing and extorting citizens, billing for overtime hours he didn’t work and falsifying reports to conceal his crimes — all part of a growing scandal that has ensnared eight officers and toppled the city’s elite gun unit.
Unlike the three officers before him, Gondo, 34, also pleaded guilty to helping protect a North Baltimore heroin ring, one that police said was responsible for more than 60 fatal and nonfatal overdoses. With his guilty pleas to both racketeering and drug conspiracy, Gondo faces as much as 40 years in prison — the longest maximum penalty of the eight indicted officers.
By pleading guilty to racketeering, Gondo and three other officers admitted to robbing civilians during traffic stops, even driving to the homes of those in custody to take more cash — a routine practice they discussed casually as “taxing” suspects.
While searching a bedroom in March 2015, Gondo uncovered a stash of money and pocketed at least $8,000. He admitted to the crime with his guilty plea.
Four months later, he robbed another home, taking an unknown amount of cash, then went to Mother’s Federal Hill Grille to divide the money with other officers from his unit, Gondo admitted Thursday.
In February 2016, he searched a woman’s bedroom alongside other officers, put her in handcuffs and robbed her of $7,000. Gondo, Rayam and Allers split the cash afterward, according to his plea.
Don’t expect the inevitable resignation of Catherine Pugh to help Baltimore. The city is corrupt to the bone, and I can’t imagine the voters changing their voting behavior. If years of huge corruption scandals, economic decline, and out of control crime won’t do it, what will?