Wife, son of ex-Pa. soft drink CEO found guilty

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The wife and son of the former head of bankrupt soft drink maker Le-Nature's were found guilty Tuesday of laundering millions of dollars to buy expensive diamonds, sapphires and even patio furniture.

Karla S. Podlucky was convicted of three money laundering counts but was found not guilty of conspiracy and another money laundering count. Her 30-year-old son, G. Jesse Podlucky, was convicted of one count of conspiracy and four counts of money laundering.

Defense attorneys had argued that Karla Podlucky was a stay-at-home mom and her son a lower-level employee who didn't know about the widespread fraud at Le-Nature's, which went bankrupt in 2006, idling 240 workers. The jury heard over three weeks of testimony in the case.

Former CEO Gregory Podlucky was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison for a massive fraud scheme that vastly overstated the company's revenues so the Latrobe-based Le-Nature's could get $800 million in loans. Meanwhile, prosecutors said, Podlucky looted the company and underreported his income. Authorities said $33 million was siphoned off to buy jewelry for Karla Podlucky.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Garrett said the family tax returns showed income that could not support the massive jewelry collection.

Garrett said the suspicious ways the defendants handled various transactions — moving money through multiple accounts, buying a car out of state, using different post offices and addresses — seemed to give the jury enough circumstantial evidence to conclude that the family members knew the money came from fraud.

The Podluckys will be sentenced April 26 and are free on bond, with electronic monitoring.

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