Podlucky's wife, son sentenced to prison in Le-Nature's scheme

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The obedient-spouse defense didn't work for Karla S. Podlucky.

Her husband, Gregory J. Podlucky, is serving 20 years in prison for federal crimes associated with the rise and 2006 collapse of Latrobe beverage maker Le-Nature's Inc. Karla Podlucky, 51, was sentenced Thursday to four years and three months in prison for money laundering. Their son, G. Jesse Podlucky, 31, got a nine-year sentence Thursday for money laundering and conspiracy.

"I don't think there's any question about the fact that she was manipulated" by her husband, said Mel Vatz, attorney for Karla Podlucky. "But for Gregory Podlucky, nobody would've even been here."

"There is no question that the defendant is not as culpable as Gregory Podlucky," U.S. District Judge Alan N. Bloch said at Karla Podlucky's sentencing. But she was aware of what she was doing, he said.

"She actively participated in transferring money to and from various Podlucky-controlled entities" in an effort to deceive law enforcement, he said.

Gregory Podlucky used fake books to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from lenders, then took tens of millions for his family's use. Karla Podlucky was a stay-at-home mom. Their son was a low-level employee of Le-Nature's during its final years of operation.

The wife and son were found guilty at trial in November of crimes associated with the sale of $2.9 million in diamonds and sapphires and transfers of ill-gotten assets among shell companies.

Attorneys for Karla Podlucky and her son brought witnesses who portrayed the them as people duped by a manipulative patriarch, who were finally coming out of his sway.

Gregory Podlucky was "an excessively demanding and domineering man," said Rev. David Kenyon, of Pioneer Presbyterian Church, who like the Podlucky family lives in Ligonier.

"Her family has been destroyed," said Mr. Vatz of Karla Podlucky. Imprisoning her would not deter the kinds of organized crime figures who are typical targets of money-laundering charges, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Garrett countered that there "are endless numbers of potential wives ... who will confront the question and make the choice of whether to help" criminal husbands.

The judge will decide next month whether to grant the prosecution's motion for the forfeiture of $1.4 million in Podlucky family accounts, and whether to impose a judgment of a similar amount against the family members' future earnings.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. First Published April 27, 2012 12:00 AM


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