Ex-hockey owner Pocklington charged with fraud

Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:04pm EDT
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By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Peter Pocklington, the controversial former owner of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges he tried to hide assets from a federal bankruptcy court in California.

Pocklington, 67, remains in custody until at least Friday afternoon, when a judge is expected to rule on a motion by prosecutors that he be held without bail.

His case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, and a trial date set for May 5, prosecutors said.

Pocklington's attorney, Kay Otani, had no comment on the proceedings.

Pocklington, a once-prominent businessman who aroused anger in his native Canada for trading hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky to a U.S. team in 1988, was indicted on Wednesday morning by a federal grand jury on two bankruptcy fraud charges and arrested at his home in the wealthy desert enclave of Palm Springs.

He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on both charges.

FBI agents searched Pocklington's home and two storage units that he controls, suspecting he had not disclosed all his assets in filings and statements to a Riverside bankruptcy court in 2008, according to a search warrant affidavit unsealed on Wednesday.

Pocklington, who filed for personal bankruptcy in August 2008, cited debts of about $19.6 million and assets of just $2,900, including $300 worth of clothes and shoes, but failed to disclose two bank accounts on which he had sole signatory authority, prosecutors said.   Continued...

<p>File photo of former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington.</p>