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Politicsby Fern Shen5:04 pmFeb 13, 20200

Scene from the FBI raid: Pugh’s futile attempt to hide her cellphone

A telltale buzz, coming from under a pillow, gave away her personal phone that she said she had left behind in Philadelphia

Above: New details of the April 25 raid on Catherine Pugh’s home include a confrontation in her bedroom that got, momentarily, physical. (Fern Shen)

It was early in the morning of April 25, 2019, and Mayor Catherine Pugh was alone in her Ellamont Road home when the FBI and IRS agents came to her door armed with a warrant to search and seize, among other things, her personal Samsung phone.

What happened next is outlined in today’s 37-page sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors who brought the corruption charges against the now-ex mayor.

Pugh took them up to her bedroom and handed them the red iPhone she was widely known to carry around City Hall.  She identified it “as her personal cellphone.”

“Upon closer inspection,” the memorandum says, “the agents learned that the red phone was not her personal phone, but rather a city-issued iPhone.”

Told that the warrant was for her personal Samsung phone, Pugh said she did not have it. This was a lie, says the memorandum:

“She told the agents that she had given the Samsung phone to her sister when she was in Philadelphia. An agent advised her that he was going to place a call to the Samsung phone. He then dialed the phone number assigned to the Samsung.

“Almost immediately, the agents heard a vibrating noise emanating from her bed. Pugh became emotional, went to the bed and began frantically searching through the blankets at the head of the bed. As she did so, agents started yelling for her to stop and show her hands.

“One of the agents grabbed her left shoulder and pulled her away from the bed. As he did so, the agents could see that her left hand was empty.

“However, in her right hand, the one she removed from under the bed pillow, was the Samsung personal cell phone, which was still vibrating from the call the agent had just placed. The agents took custody of the phone.

“A short while later, Pugh acknowledged she had lied to the agents about the whereabouts of her phone.”

The narrative, submitted by U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur, is part of a memo intended to guide the judge who is to determine Pugh’s penalty at her February 27 sentencing for wire fraud and tax evasion.

The memo goes on to argue that “Pugh’s lie and futile attempt to silence the phone to prevent its seizure is indicative of her lack of respect for the law and, more broadly, her past efforts to hide longstanding criminal misconduct.”

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