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LeNature's ex-CEO wants sentence thrown out, claims lawyer misled him about plea deal

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The former CEO of LeNature's Inc. has asked a federal judge to vacate his 20-year prison sentence, claiming his attorney misled him about a plea deal that would have reduced his sentence and spared his wife and son from prison, according to a federal court filing.

Gregory Podlucky, 53, formerly of Ligonier Township, also asked that the judge unseal the transcript of a sidebar hearing on the day of sentencing because it will prove his contentions, according to the motion.

Podlucky is serving 20 years at a federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J., after pleading guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy and mail, wire and bank fraud in connection with the looting of the Latrobe-based beverage company. He stole more than $800 million, triggering a series of complex civil lawsuits and criminal indictments.

His wife, Karla, 52, is serving four years and three months in Alderson, W.Va. Their son, Jesse, 31, is serving nine years at a federal prison in South Dakota, according to Bureau of Prison records. Podlucky's brother, Jonathan, a company executive, is serving a five-year prison term in Beckley, W.Va.

Podlucky was represented by attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. of Butler because attorney Tom Ceraso, who had been defending him, died before Podlucky changed his plea in 2011 from not guilty to guilty.

According to Podlucky, the deal called for him to cooperate with attorneys in a lawsuit involving Wachovia Securities, which had lent millions of dollars to LeNature's. Podlucky would forfeit the right to keep any of more than $30 million in precious gems and expensive jewelry that he purchased with stolen money, except for a few personal items that are the subject of pending litigation in federal court.

After he was indicted on the initial charges, Podlucky, his wife and son were indicted for money laundering for selling a secret stash of gems to raise $400,000 to pay Lindsay and to purchase personal items including patio furniture and an $80,000 Mercedes Benz, according to court records.

“I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment,” Lindsay said on Monday.

Podlucky said he never would have pleaded guilty if he knew the government wasn't going to honor the plea bargain.

Attorney Cheryl Strum of Chadds Ford, Delaware County, who now represents Podlucky, did not respond to a request for comment.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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