Sale of mansion on hold in LeNature's case

| Friday, Oct. 3, 2008

An $8 million mansion built by former LeNature's Inc. CEO Gregory Podlucky is for sale.

Then again, maybe not.

U.S. District Chief Bankruptcy Judge M. Bruce McCullough on Thursday delayed a decision until Oct. 31 whether to issue a permanent injunction to prevent Podlucky and his wife, Karla, from selling the luxurious structure off Route 711 in Ligonier.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas P. Agresti last week issued a temporary injunction against the Podluckys.

Confusion surrounds the proposed deal.

Several weeks ago, Ligonier Township officials received a request from Joseph Nocito of Sewickley in Allegheny County asking if there were any municipal liens against the property because a sale was pending. Ligonier officials were told the closing was set for Sept. 24.

Nocito told the Tribune-Review he didn't know anything about the deal.

In seeking a delay, attorney James Joseph, said "that would give us time to figure out the nature of the transaction, if there is a transaction, on the property and to determine the value." Joseph represents Marc Kirschner, the liquidating trustee in the LeNature's bankruptcy.

Joseph said there is information that an entity other than Nocito is involved, although the proposed buyer has spoken to Nocito. Still, Nocito has been dropped as a party from the case.

Joseph would not comment on the hearing.

Attorney Robert O. Lampl, representing the Podluckys, said he is not sure there is a prospective buyer. He said "rumors" were the reason Nocito's name surfaced in connection with the property.

"People have been interested for a couple of years, but no one has stepped up," Lampl said.

The mansion, which Podlucky claims was to be a training center for LeNature's employees, is a 25,000-square-foot building that contains seven fireplaces, custom woodwork, an auditorium, a guest house and a five-car garage. About $8 million was spent on the mansion, which would have been worth $15 million if it had been completed, court records say.

The training center was another leftover from the massive fraud that pushed LeNature's into bankruptcy in November 2006, costing creditors more than $820 million and about 240 employees their jobs.

The building is in the Podluckys' name and was not part of the bankruptcy of the defunct Latrobe beverage company.

Kirschner likely would sue the Podluckys to obtain ownership of the land so he could sell it and provide creditors with the proceeds. He maintains in court documents that Podlucky used company funds to building the house.

Attorney Tom Ceraso, who represents Podlucky in a pending federal criminal probe into money laundering, bank, wire and mail fraud, said the sale was an effort by his client to pay off $1.2 million in liens filed by companies who worked on the project.

"Greg wasn't going to get 10 cents out of the deal," Ceraso said. "This deal is just to satisfy the liens outside the bankruptcy."

Podlucky has been accused in court records in Westmoreland County of fraudulently listing his three sons as holders of a $56.7 million mortgage they gave him for the property.

A lawsuit filed in Westmoreland County alleges the deal was a ruse to allow Podlucky to maintain ownership. It claims the loan was a fraudulent transfer because no money changed hands in the transaction.

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