PITTSBURGH (AP) — When Gregory Podlucky, the former head of defunct Pennsylvania soft drink maker, Le-Nature's Inc., was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for a massive accounting fraud and money laundering scheme last October, he had to take off his tie and belt and hand them to his wife, Karla, as a security precaution before deputy marshals could lead him away handcuffed to begin his sentence.
On Thursday, Karla Podlucky, 50, and their son, G. Jesse Podlucky, 31, came prepared for that same fate — Karla clutching a pair of athletic shoes that she later put on and her son not wearing a belt — before marshals led them both away to begin prison terms they received in the money laundering scheme.
Despite pleas for leniency and arguments by their attorneys that Gregory Podlucky was a controlling, manipulative tyrant largely responsible for their crimes, Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Bloch sentenced Jesse Podlucky to nine years in prison and Karla to just over four — 51 months to be exact.
Both were convicted of several money laundering counts at a November jury trial for their role in selling $2.8 million worth of gems through Sotheby's in New York. The jewels were bought with money Gregory Podlucky, Le-Nature's former CEO, took in an accounting scheme that bankrupted the company. Some of the jewelry proceeds were used to pay Gregory Podlucky's legal bills; about $80,000 was used by Jesse Podlucky to buy a Mercedes Benz.
"People commit crimes because they want access to wealth," Assistant U.S. Attorney James Garrett said after the sentencings. "Money laundering cases are important because they're really about trying to get away with the proceeds of crime without being detected."
Gregory Podlucky had previously pleaded guilty to masterminding an accounting scheme in which he and underlings used two sets of books to inflate the company's financial statements and obtain $875 million in credit and equipment leases before creditors forced Le-Nature's into bankruptcy in 2006 and helped uncover the fraud. The scheme cost investors, vendors and, mostly, lenders $684 million when the company went belly-up, not to mention the jobs of 240 workers at the company in Latrobe, about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.