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Ligonier businessman pleads guilty to $875M LeNature's fraud

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Monday, June 20, 2011

A Ligonier Township man pleaded guilty today to three federal charges in return for the government limiting his possible prison sentence to 20 years.

Gregory Podlucky, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in the 2009 case charging him and others with participating in an $875 million fraud connected to Latrobe bottling company LeNature`s Inc. He also pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion from a separate 2009 case and one count of money laundering conspiracy in a 2011 case.

'Yes, your honor. I did it all in my sole capacity,' Podlucky said during his guilty plea hearing.

Podlucky declined comment after the hearing, so it wasn't clear if he was attempting to take sole responsibility for the fraud or for the money laundering scheme for which his wife, Karla, and son, Jesse, are still facing charges.

In the fraud case, prosecutors claim that Podlucky, the company's CEO, and others inflated the company's sales and production figures over several years so that banks and equity firms would lend them $875 million for equipment purchases and other business purposes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Garrett said Podlucky and the other conspirators operated with two sets of books. One set was an elaborate construct of phony bank statements, wire transfers, checks and other documents that was used to obtain the loans. The other set, detailing the company's actual finances, showed it was adding about $300 million in debt each year, he said.

Podlucky used the money to buy more than $15.8 million in gems and jewelry and more than $1.1 million worth of model trains and spent more than $10.9 million to build his current home, Garrett said.

As part of the plea agreement, Podlucky agreed to forfeit any gems and jewelry, other than a few personal items, as well as $1.4 million remaining in a Charles Schwab brokerage account.

A consultant for LeNature's Inc., Andrew Murin, 55, of McMurray -- a longtime friend of Podlucky -- is scheduled to plead guilty Tuesday for his role in the fraud.

Their guilty pleas leave one defendant, Robert Lynn, 67, of Ligonier Township, remaining to face trial scheduled to begin July 5.

Three co-defendants -- Tammy Andreycak, 43, of Unity, former director of accounting; Jonathan Podlucky, 37, of Hempfield, the former chief operating officer; and Donald Pollinger, 68, a business associate from North Carolina -- have entered guilty pleas in the case and are awaiting sentencing.

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