By: John A. Schwab
This afternoon, former LeNature’s Inc. Chief Executive Officer, Gregory J. Podlucky, pled guilty to criminal charges before United States District Court Judge Alan N. Bloch related to money laundering, income tax evasion, and mail fraud. This plea is the beginning of the end of a long odyssey which started in the boardroom and will end in a downtown Pittsburgh courtroom. Podlucky had once been viewed as a rising star in the profitable healthy soft drink industry. Since the September 2009 indictment, Mr. Podlucky, his brother, a business partner, and trusted advisors have faced charges including bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy for the activities that occurred between 2000 and 2006. Mr. Podlucky was scheduled to begin trial on these charges next month. His brother and LeNature’s Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Podlucky, and LeNature’s equipment broker, Donald Pollinger, each pled guilty on May 26, 2011 to one count of aiding and abetting the fraud scheme from the 2009 indictment.
The 2009 indictment had alleged that the LeNature’s CEO and his co-defendants produced false financial statements regarding the business activity and financial condition of the company which were forwarded to investors and lenders. The indictment also alleges that the defendants then used false documents to mislead external auditors that LeNature’s false financial statements were indeed accurate. In a 2009 announcement, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office stated that the fraud amounted to $806 million. It is the largest criminal case ever prosecuted in the history of the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Podlucky’s plea follows the February 8, 2011 indictment by the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, David J. Hickton, charging Podlucky; his wife, Karla S. Podlucky; and his son, G. Jesse Podlucky; with money laundering and conspiracy. Prosecutors claim that the three defendants purchased jewels and precious metals through the LeNature’s scheme, which were then sold at auctions. The indictment also alleges that the laundered money was then used to pay for the Podluckys’ attorneys’ fees, credit card bills, and the lease on a Mercedes Benz. LeNature’s was a bottling company based in the Western District of Pennsylvania, until November 2006, when it filed for bankruptcy.