Former Le-Nature’s CEO Pleads Guilty

Former Le-Nature’s CEO Grogory Podlucky has pleaded guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, mail fraud, and money laundering.

Podlucky, whose scheme resulted in more than $600 million in losses for banks and companies that leased him equipment for use at what turned out to be a tiny functional water company, faces what prosecutors believe will be a 20-year sentence when he returns to court on Oct. 20.

During a change-of-plea hearing, the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh said Podlucky had stated Le-Nature’s earnings at nearly $300 million one year — while its actual sales were less than $30 million. Podlucky used two sets of books, and even created falsified checks in the Le-Nature’s graphics department, to support the acquisition of nearly $900 million in credit for the company.

Gregory Podlucky in CEO mode.

Investigators looking into the Le-Nature’s case found that Podlucky, 51, had amassed a collection of gold, jewels, and even an 8,000 piece model train collection at both his house and at the Le-Nature’s offices. The Latrobe, Penn.-based company went bankrupt in late 2006, as the investigation into Podlucky and the other officers of Le-Nature’s began to accelerate.

Last month, a U.S. District Court judge turned down an attempt by Podlucky’s attorney to have a search warrant thrown out of court. The warrant had been for Podlucky’s house — and the trove of computerized records and other evidence that was recovered there.

Two other guilty pleas preceded Podlucky’s: his brother Jonathan Podlucky, who was in charge of production at Le-Nature’s, and a North Carolina-based equipment broker for the company, Donald K. Pollinger. A former company director named Andrew Murin has pleaded not guilty in the fraud case. Podlucky’s wife and son were also indicted on money laundering charges related to attempts to sell the gold, jewels, and other valuables — all of which had allegedly been purchased with the money stolen from the company.